Sunday, September 11, 2011

Perry on Social Security: Romney Agrees (So Does Palin)

I am returned from my sojourn to the leeward side of the Cascades, from a meeting of some great conservatives amidst the vistas of the high desert of eastern Oregon, which I prefer to call Greater Idaho.  I return to find that the main political news still revolves around Rick Perry’s campaign, as it should.  He is the clear frontrunner and thus is the main target of anyone and everyone who has something to lose.

The current main attack on Rick Perry involves his stand on Social Security, which he strongly reiterated (lest anyone doubt) at the goading of the MSNBC moderators at the last debate at the Reagan Ranch.  Some have leaped on Perry’s declaration that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie” for the younger generation – which it is.  (We have known this at least since George W Bush brought it up in 1999.)

Mitt Romney, running a sudden second place after Perry’s entrance to the field, scrambled for some traction by declaring that Perry is "committed to abolishing Social Security" and tha he "Believes Social Security Should Not Exist", and his campaign has even sent out a flier making the absurd accusation that he "wants to kill Social Security".

Governor Perry, of course, has said nothing of the sort:
I am going to be honest with the American people.  Our elected leaders must have the strength to speak frankly about entitlement reform if we are to right our nation's financial course and get the USA working again.
For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security.  We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security and make it financially viable for generations to come.
Romney, aghast at the notion that Perry dare touch that third rail of Social Security reform, stated during the debate, “Under no circumstances would I ever say, by any measure, it’s a failure.  It is working for millions of Americans.”  He should perhaps consult his own notes, such as this from his book of last year:
Let’s look at what would happen if someone in the private sector did a similar thing.  Suppose two grandparents created a trust fund, appointed a bank as trustee, and instructed the bank to invest the proceeds of the trust fund so as to provide for their grandchildren’s education.  Suppose further that the bank used the proceeds for its own purposes, so that when the grandchildren turned eighteen, there was no money for them to go to college.  What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money?  They would go to jail.  But what has happened to the people responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security?  They keep returning to Congress every two years.
True, Romney did not specifically mention the words, but he described a Ponzi scheme nonetheless, other than the fact that we cannot put Congress in prison for a criminal act.  (This is much to the chagrin of Mark Twain: “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”)  When Romney has changed positions as much as he has, he needs a staff to help keep him straight on these things.

Perry's staff added more specifics to Romney's position-of-the-moment:

One example cited from Romney's book, No Apology: "To put it in a nutshell, the American people have been effectively defrauded out of their Social Security."
"In his book, Romney compared Social Security to a fraudulent criminal enterprise," Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said, charging that the ex-Massachusetts goveror "ran from his position" at the debate.
"His evolving and inconsistent position on this important issue is curious, but unfortunately not unusual," Sullivan said.
To make matters worse for Romney, now Sarah Palin has weighed in on Perry's position, and on his side:
What Rick Perry was trying to say [in the debate] I believe is that there needs to be reform.  Status quo is not acceptable because these programs are he's saying reform is necessary and we either reform these programs ourselves or the world capital markets will reform them for us.
Why stop there?  Nobel Prize Economist Paul A Samuelson, a Keynesian, called Social Security a Ponzi scheme in 1967, and described it as such even earlier.

Perry has done it again: he sucks in the opposition, then delivers the blow.  He still needs to lay out the manner of the reform that he wants to see – and he will – but the argument is shaping up in his favour and is being controlled by him.

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