Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Practical vs. The Ideal in Social Security

Hugh Hewitt is currently presiding over a bloodbath on the President's proposal to consider a tax increase in exchange for partial privatization. And once again, Conservatives are beating each other around the ears over whether this is a compromise or a sell-out. I believe this to be a false dichotomy of sorts and I have yet to hear anyone correctly discern what is happening.

The real reason for disagreement is that Hugh, arguing for the compromise, and many Conservatives arguing against it, do not have the same goal in mind. Hugh's goal is practical: to fix Social Security and deliver taxpayers a better deal than the one they currently have. And the compromise plan, if it is negotiated well, is definitely a win for taxpayers.

But his opponents have a different goal: ditching the entire idea of social spending. Though they may not realize it, this is what bothers them about the compromise plan. Article I, Section 8 grants Congress no power to engage in social spending. The American people are like a King who grants a servant (Congress) a little power to carry out specific tasks. When the servant exceeds that granted power, he has committed a crime against his King.

Those who view the problem this way see the compromise as neutral at best because it does nothing to move the country in the direction of better compliance with the Constitution.

I am on both sides: I appreciate anything we can get that will personally benefit taxpayers and I also want to see a more Constitutional Congress. I think, however, that partial privatization in the short term--even gained at cost of compromise--may spawn a cultural revolution in the view of social spending that will allow us to gradually work our way out of the un-Constitutional mess in which we now find ourselves.

One failing of Conservative Idealists (Michael Savage, for example) is that they want everything now. They are not willing to see the long-term strategic plan. Perhaps I'm wrong and the Idealists are right. Perhaps this will end up driving us even further away from our end goal. But we didn't get into this situation over-night and we certainly can't get out overnight. Societies don't turn on a dime. But the smart Democrats see what's coming 40 or 50 years down the road and they don't like it.