- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2001

President George W. Bush took a step toward fulfilling another important campaign promise this week. He named a 16-member bipartisan commission to devise a plan partially to privatize Social Security and, in the process, rescue the nations largest entitlement program from its current destiny of long-term bankruptcy.

During last year´s campaign, Mr. Bush seized the politically radioactive issue of Social Security reform, long regarded as the "third rail of American politics" because it was almost universally believed that any politician who touched it would be electrocuted, in electoral terms at least. But Mr. Bush and his advisers, who held the Clinton-Gore administration in contempt for failing to summon the political courage to reform the long-term entitlement programs for the elderly, did not believe it. Having defied conventional political wisdom and absorbed the Democrats´ predictable attacks charging him with attempting to "destroy Social Security," Mr. Bush emerged victorious, determined more than ever to rescue Social Security from its dismal fate.

Rightfully, Mr. Bush refused to apologize for the fact that all of the members of the newly formed commission have expressed support for the idea of partial Social Security privatization. Indeed, appointing former New York Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan as the commission´s Democratic co-chairman was a stroke of political genius. Mr. Moynihan has long been widely regarded as one of the nation´s foremost experts on Social Security. Nothing he would likely recommend could ever be fairly attacked as an effort to "destroy" Social Security.

Not surprisingly, however, Mr. Moynihan´s presence as co-chairman, along with seven other bona fide Democrats on the panel, has not prevented the Democratic congressional leadership from attacking the commission. "We are not going to stand by and let Social Security be ruined," demagogued House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, who surely knows that Social Security´s unfunded liabilities approach $20 trillion over the next 75 years, or six times the federal debt held by the public today. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle bitterly complained that Mr. Bush´s commission was "a stacked, completely orchestrated effort to come to a desired result." As long as this effort is bipartisan, which it truly is, it is impossible to see how Mr. Bush can be faulted for this well-intended attempt to secure the retirement of future generations of Americans.

For political expediency in the near term, far too many Democrats, particularly their congressional leadership, would permit Social Security to slide into its inevitable long-term bankruptcy. Within 15 years, Social Security benefits will exceed the taxes it takes in. By 2038, the entire system will be broke. In fact, the so-called Social Security Trust Fund is an oxymoron, and Social Security itself is a giant Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Bush has charged Mr. Moynihan and his colleagues on the commission to devise a long-term solution to Social Security´s problems by exploiting the wonders of compound interest through the establishment of private personal investment accounts, whose long-term yield would vastly exceed the return offered by Social Security. Countries in Europe and Latin America have successfully tried this course, but if anyone has a better idea now is the time to bring it up. Let the debate begin.

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