Lately, Barack Obama has been saying that major action is needed to avert what he keeps calling a “crisis” in Social Security — most recently in an interview with The National Journal. Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.
But Mr. Obama’s Social Security mistake was, in fact, exactly what you’d expect from a candidate who promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable.
To understand the nature of Mr. Obama’s mistake, you need to know something about the special role of Social Security in American political discourse....
As Peter Orszag, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, put it in a recent article co-authored with senior analyst Philip Ellis: “The long-term fiscal condition of the United States has been largely misdiagnosed. Despite all the attention paid to demographic challenges, such as the coming retirement of the baby-boom generation, our country’s financial health will in fact be determined primarily by the growth rate of per capita health care costs.”
How has conventional wisdom gotten this so wrong? Well, in large part it’s the result of decades of scare-mongering about Social Security’s future from conservative ideologues, whose ultimate goal is to undermine the program.
-Paul Krugman op-ed, Played for a Sucker
Don Boudreaux responds
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