We're hearing again the clarion call of those who say the Democrats can't disagree with the president's 'plan' without bringing forward one of their own. Nevermind the fact that the president hasn't put forward a 'plan' and according to White House and Republican strategiest probably never will.
Let's set all that aside and stipulate to the fact that, all Washington Kabuki aside, the president does have a plan on the table, though one that he reserves the right to change on a day by day basis, and ask whether it makes sense for the Democrats to put one forward too.
There seems little doubt that it doesn't pass the political test. As long as the president is floundering in a debate that is almost entirely confined to his own party, what sense is there for Democrats to throw him a lifeline, especially when the president has all the force of the executive and the legislative arrayed on his side?
Far more important than politics, though, it doesn't pass the test of simple logic.
As we noted earlier this evening, in his radio talk today, Sen. Charles Schumer asked: "Does Social Security need fine-tuning, as most Democrats believe? Or does it need to be replaced with something completely different, as the president wants to do?"
He might have sharpened those words a bit more; but embedded in them is the crux of the matter. We're not having a debate about saving or shoring up Social Security. Chatterers notwithstanding, Democrats have a range of quite well-thought-out proposals for doing that, ranging from changes in fiscal policy, to adjustments in the program itself, to supplements to it.
But, again, to ask this question is to assume that what we're having right now is a debate about shoring up Social Security. And we're not.
The debate we're having right now is whether to keep Social Security or replace it with something else. To press that debate with proposals about how to assure the system's solvency from the middle through the end of the present century is ridiculous. One might as well enter into an argument about whether or not to tear down the house with proposals for reshingling the roof and refitting the windows. The disconnect is too great for there to be any sense in it.
As much as the president wants to scramble it up and mystify the Crowleys, Blitzers and sundry Russerts of the world, we're having an important national debate about whether to keep Social Security or phase it out and replace it with something different -- most likely a system of unsecured private investment accounts similar to 401ks. Once that debate is over, and if it's decided in favor of keeping the Social Security system, then the country can debate how to best preserve it. But before that, there's just no sense in it.