It was in the area of entitlements that Ford made his boldest statements. He says we need to notify people 40 and under right now that they won't be getting Social Security until they are 70. Increased life expectancy is threatening the solvency of the program. He also favors means testing so that those making over $300,000 a year would not receive a Social Security check. He is opposed to private accounts.
Sounds tough and sensible. The obvious problem is that if you cut off benefits only to those "making over $300,000 a year" you don't save the system very much money--especially if the over-$300,000 test applies to income earned at the time the benefits are received, when many affluent seniors are retired and living off investment income. If it applies to peak-earning years, it would cut off more people, of course, though I'd guess not more than the top one or two percent. (The top five percent of all households began down at $150,499 in 2001.) But it's a camel's nose. ... [via Instapundit] 1:05 P.M.
Return to 'Return to Normalcy' II: Bob Wright doesn't think much of my** suggestion that the Democrats adopt some variation of "Return to Normalcy" as their overarching 2006-2008 theme. He notes it's not exactly a clarion call of passionate idealism. That may be true. But here are some advantages:
1) It covers a lot: The essential premise is that Bush has stretched the military, the Constitution and the civility of our politics to the limit in reaction to the threat of future 9/11s. All this fevered straining and leveraging may have been appropriate at the time, but there's no real need to keep running in hyperdrive. We can routinize the anti-terror struggle the way we routinized the Cold War, when just as much was at stake. We don't have to make an end run around the Constitution or a duly-passed statute (wiretapping). We don't have to torture prisoners or hold them forever without hearings. We don't have to slight disaster relief (Katrina) because the Department of Homeland Security worries only about terrorists. We don't have to unmask CIA agents in a desperate effort to build a case for war. ** We don't have to alienate our allies. We don't have to run giant deficits to finance our armed forces, as if the "Global War on Terror" were a temporary crisis that will be over in three years. It's not. It's a semi-permanent part of the landscape. Democrats can contain the terrorist threat the way, for four decades, they helped contain the Russians--while (as during the Cold War) we allow ourselves to turn our attention to domestic problems such as health care and Social Security.
2) It not only changes the focus from foreign policy (on which Dems tend to lose) to domestic policy (where Dems are poised to win)--it does this a) without minimizing the importance of the anti-terror effort but also b) without requiring the public to decide that Democrats are actually better equipped to fight Al Qaeda. All they have to decide is that the Dems are right to say, "We can handle it." Wright wants a full-blooded campaign that tells voters the Bush approach to the terror, including the Iraq War, is "completely wrongheaded." But Iraq has already been invaded--whoever is president is going to have to deal with the reality that exists now. The abnormal--an experiment in Iraqi democracy--is now the normal. Or, rather, it needs to be the normal. Isn't it easier to simply convince the public that a Dem approach will be just as effective at making the best of that situation, at a tolerable casualty level? Democrats, after all, already have the votes of Americans who think Bush's approach is "completely wrongheaded." And the mere goal of "returning to normalcy" will by itself do a lot to decathect the terror war abroad, without suggesting a reversal or retreat.
3) It bridges over the rift within the Democratic Party without seeming to be a vague compromise. The idea that Bush has gone a bit crazy trying to remake history after 9/11 incorporates a fairly severe critique of his presidency, all the more powerful because it is accurate. At the same time, "normalcy"--or whatever synonym you prefer--rhetorically counters the idea that Dems are the wacky, fringe, cultural boundary-pushing party of drugs, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc. Mudcat Saunders will be happy. (Or else it implies that gay unions, tolerance, self-medication, etc. now are the normal American institutions--so Frank Rich will be happy too. Win-win!)
RTN isn't the message for which I'd cheer the loudest. It's not a reform message, in itself. It's a centrist message (base-based politics, as opposed to compromise-based politics, is one of the Bush practices that's been straining our normal political civility). But it's not a "radical centrist" message. I'd prefer a presidential candidate who takes on both the business lobby on the Republican side and the union and racial preference lobbies on the Democratic side. But then I'll probably be voting for John McCain, rather than a Democrat, in 2008.
P.S.: Wright doesn't think much of McCain either.
** Actually, the suggestion was first made by Peggy Noonan during the 2004 campaign.
*** Have I missed any of the day's scandals? OK, Abramoff. Abramoff doesn't fit. But 4 out of 5 isn't bad.
Update: RTN certainly beats the Dem's latest syncretic effort, which amalgamates the Bushies' various sins (Katrina, Iraq, Plame, Cheney's hunting accident) as the product of a "secretive administration" (Sen. Reid) that refuses to "level with the American people" (Sen. Clinton). For one thing, unlike Reid's theme, RTN isn't entirely negative, or process-oriented. It says at least something about where a non-secretive, leveling Dem government would want to take the nation. ... RTN also subsumes Reid's theme--a "normal" administration would not be so secretive! 2:43 A.M. link