During the 2000 Presidential election, George W. Bush first brought up his desire to reform the Social Security program using private accounts as its centerpiece. Throughout the campaign, he tried to promote his plan for private accounts and how their creation and an individual’s own personal investment could help save the Social Security system. This idea got little support in the polls, and has remained unpopular with most Americans in poll after poll ever since. With little support for his policy, the president quietly pushed it aside during his first term and made tax cuts his domestic economic policy priority.
No longer worried about re-election, now-President Bush has made “reforming” Social Security the focal point of his domestic policy agenda in his second term. The president spent much of his most recent State of the Union speech addressing the issue, and has even hit the “campaign circuit” again, taking his Social Security plan directly to the people. Despite the amount of time and energy he has spent on his plan to reform Social Security, it still remains unpopular among a vast majority of Americans today.
It seems that Bush and the Republican Party want to do anything they can to scare the American people into thinking that without privatization, Social Security will one day go bankrupt. After five years of polls showing the unpopularity of changes to the Social Security program, why is the Bush administration still fighting so hard to convince the American people of his plan, and why is the Republican leadership still doing anything they can in helping to promote this agenda?
The reason that Bush and the Republican Party are so fixated on convincing the American people to change their minds on Social Security reform is because of its overwhelming success over the last sixty years. Social Security stands as a symbol of the failure of an unregulated free market system and the powerful effect government can have in making peoples’ lives better.
The Social Security system has helped pull millions out of poverty, and is the single most successful government program of the twentieth century. The success and popularity of the Social Security system has remained an annoyance for many on the far right for decades, as discounting the legitimacy of social programs only works if those social programs aren’t especially legitimate.
And now, Bush and the Republican Party will do anything they can to convince the American people that the Social Security system is failing.
Both talk about the long-term health of Social Security, and that without “reform” the program might not be around for future generations. Current figures show the Social Security program may run out of money sometime around the year 2049. But anyone who truly believes that Bush and the Republican Party are concerned about the economic impact a government program might have 40 years down the road has obviously not been following Bush administration policy over the last four years.
Bush administration policies, such as on the environment and the budget deficit, show a complete lack of concern for how today’s plans will affect long-term national interest. Over the last four years, we have seen the national debt grow at a faster pace then at any other time in our history. Earlier this year, we saw the single month budget deficit reach a record $113 billion. It’s not a coincidence that this all happened with Bush in the White House and a Congress controlled by Republicans. How could a party that truly cares about the 40-year impact of a government program allow record budget deficits to grow month after month, guaranteed to have to be paid back by future generations?
It’s clear that Bush and the Republican Party aren’t concerned about the Social Security program’s potential future problems. They are more concerned with its long record of success and popularity, and in both the short and long-term, that’s no reason to mess with something the people don’t want to see messed with.
Marcus Afzali is a junior political science major.