I'm starting to be seriously concerned about the way the Democrats are approaching the Social Security issue. The calculation seems to be that the Republicans have neither the numbers nor the unity necessary to pass sweeping changes without help; so the Democrats have adopted this uncompromising stance where there's nothing wrong with Social Security as it is now. The problem is, this claim is obviously untrue. Social Security is going to face huge deficits over the next few decades. Whether these deficits are smaller or larger than other deficits (created by the Bush tax cuts, for example) has nothing to do with whether there's a problem with Social Security; it's a sour grapes argument, and it's all we're hearing from the Democrats.
The Bush plan is easy enough to attack, even with the sketchy details we have now. It doesn't fix Social Security's budget problems, which would seem to be a fatal flaw given the way Bush has presented it. It cuts benefits and bases its projections on an overly optimistic return beyond inflation. Most importantly, it's a very un-Republican attempt to publicize the entire retirement account system in the United States -- where any number of retirement account options already exist. Surely this last point is one the Democrats could make forcefully; isn't Bush's program just a massive expansion of government? And one that fails to address the real problems with Social Security?
Taegan Goddard links to a Washington Wire poll indicating that Americans (and even a big chunk of Republicans) want the Democrats to be an opposition party. But heckling the passing parade isn't going to do it. The Democrats need to seize this issue and make it their own -- it's as good a place as any to finally begin to redefine what it means to be a Democrat.