Epic Nation

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The moral case for Social Security reform

Reason Online has a great article up by Jonathan Rauch on how the real motivation behind George W. Bush's plan to reform Social Security is not so much economic, but that of morality. Here's an excerpt, but I recommend reading the entire article:

Conservatives need to frame Social Security reform as a dollars-and-cents issue, but that is not really why they are excited. What they really hope to change is not the American economy but the American psyche.

Conservatives used to speak derisively of liberal social engineering. The attempt to create private Social Security accounts is, so to speak, conservative social counter-engineering. Government should help provide for unforeseeable contingencies: tsunamis, unemployment, open-heart surgery. But if there is one event in all of human life that is wholly foreseeable, it is the advent of old age. Why, then, shouldn't people save for their own retirement, instead of relying on welfare from the government—which is what Social Security, as currently constituted, really is?

Tanner argues that people who own assets behave differently and see their place in society in a different light. Private accounts, he says, would encourage a culture of saving and personal responsibility; they would discourage political class warfare; they may, he argues, improve work habits, and even reduce crime and other social pathologies. Create private Social Security accounts, and millions of low-income Americans will be stockholders and bondholders. Republican political activists look at the way portfolio investors vote—and salivate at the prospect of millions more of them.

The 2004 exit polls suggested, to many conservatives, that "moral values" won the election for Bush. It may seem odd, then, that his boldest post-election priority is not abortion or gay marriage or schools, but Social Security. The key to the paradox is that Social Security reform is not, at bottom, an economic issue with moral overtones. It is a moral issue with economic overtones.

When liberals try to contemplate the morals of a red state voter, I wonder what they imagine. Are they really so fixated in their own hatred of Christians that they build this moral template around their own stereotype? When the Left speaks of those voters who cast their ballot for George W. Bush because of "morals", without fail they will bring up abortion, gay marriage, and the role of Judeo-Christian values in America. However, by mockingly defining the values of these Americans with their own distorted stereotypes, liberals unintentionally miss several other morals that define conservatives.

Work ethic, reliance on Self, and personal responsibility are the moral tones that ring hollow upon the ears of liberals. Principles such as these would never cross the mind of a liberal because they have such a warped view of their own country. To them, an individual can only realize happiness through government. This makes perfect sense when you consider most liberal Democrats have never earned a real living, and only made a name for themselves once they entered government.

How the Democrats painted themselves into this corner is of little concern to me. But seeing how they plan on realligning themselves with the values of most Americans will be interesting. Intellectual sloth has reduced the left's rhetoric to creating characters of their opposition. While its easy for them to create a distasteful image of a Bible thumping demagogue, it would be nearly impossible to do the same of a hard working American who wants nothing more than to be able to support his family without the feds bleeding him dry.

So long as the Democratic party stands for growth of the federal government, they will find themselves increasingly marginalized by an electorate that would rather be left alone.


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