Monday, January 31, 2005

Dems and Republicans dosie-do

I can understand the Dems desperately getting religion in the wake of their November defeats, including the much noted move toward abortion "common ground" by Hillary Clinton. But what surprises me is the recent Republican move to the left, with the suggestion that Social Security private accounts would be more beneficial for blacks, or even that race and gender might be used to index benefits. This is straight out of the left-wing hymnal of grievance politics, and it sounds rather off-key coming from Republicans. The Democrats immediately started flogging the issue (perhaps irate that the GOP had out-flanked them on identity politics). Nearly lost within their heated rhetoric was one valid criticism: if blacks have a shorter life expectancy, shouldn't we focus on addressing the reasons for that differential (i.e., health care access, violent crime, etc.), rather than institutionalizing the inequity? From all the heat, you'd never suspect that the more extreme "suggestion" of race-based indexing was not really a suggestion at all, but some comments by House Ways & Means Chair Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield CA) urging a "big picture" approach to Social Security reform. Most of what he said was quite sensible, and it's worthwhile reading the whole interview. He seems to be genuinely interested in solving the problem rather than winning the next election, and he has some interesting comments on the polarizing effects of labeling ideas. More importantly, he has some bold ideas, including introducing a value-added tax (VAT). There's at least one Republican willing to consider what might be a good idea, even if it does mean taking a page from "Old Europe".

1 comment:

john said...

Tom, but isn't this shifting the burden for SS from employers to consumers (ie, employees)? Unless you if I currently make $100,000, and my employer must pay $6,000 for my SS (ignore the 90,000 cap for the moment), do you REALLY believe that they will give me a $6,000 raise when the VAT is enacted? I am already concerned with the lack of company pensions for our generation; this seems like another way to lower the tax burden of corporations (which arguably is a good thing), but playing limbo stick with tax rates (how-low-can-you-go) eventually is going to cause a problem.