Monday, March 14, 2005

On Creating Urgency

I've noticed that one of the more difficult things about debating social security is how tough it is to create a sense of urgency. After all, if there is a finite amount of time and effort that any society can devote to public issues, than it only makes sense that the stuff that we decide to talk about is pressing and significant. When the president addresses the country there might be a sense that he needs to get us riled up and energized--something that you probably won't become after hearing this conclusion:
Whatever changes we make, we must provide a better and stronger system for younger workers. And that is why I have proposed allowing younger Americans to place some of your payroll taxes in voluntary personal retirement accounts. You would have a choice of conservative bond and stock funds, with the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return than is possible under the current system. If you earn an average of $35,000 over your career, you can build up nearly a quarter-million dollars in your account, on top of your Social Security check. This would be real savings you own, a nest egg you could pass on to your children.

The American people did not place us in office to pass on problems to future generations and future Presidents and future Congresses. I will work with both parties to fix Social Security permanently. Social Security has been there for generations of Americans, and together we will strengthen it for generations to come.
Nest eggs, passing things on to children, voluntary accounts, hardly the stuff of soaring and inspiring rhetoric. Of course, it's hard to create too much urgency because then you will be accused of scaring senior citizens or threatening to leave them behind or something like that. Tricky stuff: legislating for many tomorrows from now, today.


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