Privatization Returns

Like Ezra Klein, I was a bit surprised to see that House Republicans are pushing ahead with their Social Security privatization bill, even going so far as to plan a vote on the bill. The danger here seems obvious: the Senate might not end up passing anything, and then all of those House Republicans will be on the record as having voted to gut Social Security and explode the deficit with nothing substantial to show for it in the end. (Luckily, the bill under discussion by the House is so insane that it doesn’t even bother with benefit cuts; it just borrows all the money to create private accounts. In other words, the way to fix a program that will someday be “bankrupt,” according to the president, is to borrow more money.)

So it’s odd. But the key sentence in the story seems to be this: “GOP leaders said the measure would be incorporated into a broader bill making changes in pensions and other areas relating to retirement.” The full bill will likely be packed full of various goodies to bail out corporate pensions; a ploy, mostly, to force Democrats to vote against their organized labor supporters, many of whom really do want the government to take action on all those rickety corporate pensions. Well, if that’s the game, it’s quite devious. The thing to note, however, is that few, if any, of these labor-friendly pension provisions would ever make it past the Republican-dominated conference committee if this bill were ever in actual danger of passing. Again: It’s a ploy. The real issue here is that, despite having a majority in Congress, Republicans are too afraid to slash Social Security on their own, so they’re engaging in a bit of maniacal brinksmanship to try and force the Democrats to give them some political cover. No one should be taking them seriously at this point. Democrats aren’t the party of ideas? Please. When someone’s standing around holding a grenade, the only proper “idea” in this instance is to refrain from going over and pulling out the pin.