The Grand Old Partisan of Illinois

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Duckworth, Bean & AARP Dance the Social Security Two-Step

One of my favorite lines from post-Sorkin West Wing comes in an episode about the policy and politics surrounding Social Security. In a one-on-one conversation, Bartlet tells Toby:

you can't save Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes, and this is the largest meeting in Washington where anyone's ever admitted it."

Though the show is fiction, that statement couldn’t be any truer. The only other option is to reform Social Security, and fundamentally change the structure of the program, as President Bush proposed doing last year.

If only today’s real Democrats were as honest in public as their fictional standard-bearers are in private. Tammy Duckworth is vehemently opposed to reforming or structuring the program; and, according to a recent press release, she is also opposed to raising taxes or cutting benefits. So how exactly does she plan to save it? According to her website, by “solving the nation’s exploding federal budget deficit.”

I’m sorry, but can someone please explain how that – as unquestionably worthy and necessary a step as that may be – will solve the fundamental problem facing Social Security, which is that more money will soon be going out than will be coming in to replace it. Yes, we must pay back the money borrowed from the Trust Fund. But that is an oversimplified, temporary solution that only delays the inevitable.

Given that, I’m inclined to say that, when the AARP asked in their candidate questionnaire "will you support a balanced Social Security plan to continue the program's guaranteed benefits for future generations?” Tammy Duckworth lied by answering yes. She doesn’t seem to support any such plan.

You would think that the AARP might be angered by a candidate answering yes and then renouncing any plan that resembles their own stated definition of “balanced” (which according to their website, includes “additional contributions from high income workers with modest adjustments in future benefits can maintain guaranteed Social Security benefits for future generations"). Instead, they have assisted Duckworth, and her 6th District counterpart, Rep. Melissa Bean, in backpedaling their responses - explaining how answering yes to that question doesn’t necessarily mean that they support raising taxes or reducing benefits.

With their own positions sufficiently mirky, both Duckworth and Bean, with the help of AARP are hoping that they can shout "we're for saving it and the Republicans are for dismantling it" loud and often enough to avoid giving the voters of the 6th and 8th District the straight answers they deserve before Election Day.

Also posted, with comments, at Illinoize

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