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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Broccoli First

Please excuse the lack of posts the last couple of days, but I’ve been dealing with a family medical emergency down in Georgia, and juggling various Day Job responsibilities. But my immersion in America, as opposed to Washington, in recent days predisposed me to treat George W. Bush’s press conference remarks on Social Security last night with a certain sense of slack-jawed astonishment. He said what? Tell me if I’m missing something, but having failed for months to sell the country on a free-lunch vision of a privatized pension system in which private accounts would magically guarantee retirement security and pay for itself, Bush suddenly started selling broccoli instead of dessert. He’s now out there peddling benefit cuts for middle and upper income retirees, as though they represent some sort of inherent virtue.Now, you can make a progressive case for what the wonks call “progressive indexing,” but not in isolation from every other issue involving Social Security, tax policy, budget policy, and retirement security generally. Yet that’s how Bush is trying to sell this glass of castor oil. It is very, very unlikely to attact any Democratic support, and is very, very likely to produce a big revolt among conservative Republicans, especially in the House, who are still addicted to the free lunch mirage. I don’t know whether this gambit is just part of an exit strategy where Bush is laying down “responsible” markers for the future (given his chronic inability to admit defeat), or some sort of tactic designed to peel off a few Democrats who have been complaining about the administration’s unwillingness to embrace any policy that would improve rather than weaken Social Security’s solvency. But still, it’s a strange move, and out here in America, it seems to be playing about as well as the Cookie Monster’s recent emergence as an advocate for healthy food.

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