Saturday, November 03, 2007

Describing the Problem; Demonstrating It

An editorial in today's The Tennessean says some things about Social Security and Medicare that conservatives have been saying for decades. Perhaps realizing that, the paper seems to feel a reflexive need to take a pot shot at conservatives:

Saving the programs will require the willpower to do things like limit benefits, raise taxes, increase the retirement age or look at other options to make the numbers work. There must be compromise. That said, there is a certain amount of amusement at hearing "conservative" approaches to fixing Medicare and Social Security. They are liberal programs. Americans like them. Conservatives realize Americans demand that the programs continue. So it's interesting to hear conservatives' ideas on how to "save" Social Security and Medicare. If there were a truly conservative approach, Social Security and Medicare would be abolished. Thankfully, that won't happen.

It is a bit odd that in the same paragraph in which the author writes of the need for a bipartisan "compromise," that they decide to take a cheap shot at one side. One supposes that the writer must not have much experience at building bridges. Leaving that aside, the editorial also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of conservatism. Conservatives take as their beginning point the world as it is, which is the reason that I know of no serious conservative politician who has called for abolishing social security in more than a generation. Abolishing Social Security and Medicare at this point in time when millions of older Americans have planned for retirement based on receiving those benefits would be catastrophic, and everyone knows that

Thus, no serious conservative is calling for their abolition, even though the impending cataclysmic problems that The Tennessean describes are exactly those that conservatives have warned about since the programs' beginnings.

The Tennessean is applauding legislation that would create a commission to deal with the problems. The commission may be a good idea, but it is important to note that its seeming need arises from a failure of the democratic and political processes caused by politicians that demagogue an issue for partisan advantage rather than deal with it forthrightly. That fact makes the editorial all the more ironic and sad.

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