March 6, 2005

"But how does that help the solvency problem?"

On "Meet the Press" today, Tim Russert asked Senate Republican whip Mitch McConnell exactly the question that I have about the President's Social Security plan. That is, he asks and re-asks. You read the transcript and tell me if McConnell ever answers:
MR. RUSSERT: What does private personal accounts do to fix the solvency problem? I don't understand that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What personal accounts are is an extraordinarily good investment. Let's take a 25-year-old, for example. Invests $1,000 in regular Social Security, gets a 2 percent return over 40 years, he gets $61,000. That same young person investing that same $1,000 in a personal retirement account, looking at the average return on investment of the stock market, would get $100,000 more. Why don't we at least discuss that in the context of the overall effort to save Social Security for our children and our grandchildren?

MR. RUSSERT: But how does that help the solvency problem?

SEN. McCONNELL: But why not discuss it? If it is a better deal for younger workers, why rule out adding that to the overall discussion of how we not only save Social Security but make it better for the next generation.

MR. RUSSERT: But when the president says Social Security is going to go bankrupt and we have a problem with solvency and the solution is private accounts, people don't understand that connection. Private accounts don't seem to deal with the solvency problem alone. And the White House acknowledges that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What we want to do is make Social Security better for the next generation, in addition to saving it. At the risk of being redundant, it seems to me that the smart thing to do is to discuss all aspects of this. Every good idea ought to come to the table. We're certainly open to any suggestions the Democrats have in any part of this discussion.

All McConnell can say is: as long as we are going to do something about the solvency problem, why don't we do something else about Social Security that is also a good idea? Why should we not read that as a concession that personal accounts don't help with the solvency problem?

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