Sunday, February 27, 2005

Don't Blink

The Washington Post reports that some GOP lawmakers might be interested in cutting a deal with Democrats on Social Security Privatization.

In one example, Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) said, a compromise might involve merging Bush's proposal with plans -- some backed by Democrats -- that create government-subsidized savings plans outside Social Security. Under this scenario, Bush's proposal to divert 4 percent of an individual's Social Security payroll tax would become 2 percent or less.
It is important for Democrats to realize that there is no compromise on Social Security privatization. There is victory or there is defeat. The Republicans understand this, hence the floating of a trial balloon on the possibility of a deal.

... most of these compromises would involve Bush significantly scaling back his proposals for restructuring the popular benefits program. In exchange, he could still claim an incremental victory on what he has described as his core principles: enhancing the long-term solvency of Social Security and giving younger Americans options to invest more of their retirement money (emphasis added).
This is key.

The more voters learn about this privatization scheme, the less they like it, and Bush has nowhere to hide. He betrayed Evangelical conservatives by declaring Social Security privatization his number one domestic priority (not, as they had every right to expect, gay marriage and/or abortion), so they have been unwilling to provide him with rhetorical cover. His congressional allies are running scared. And, the USANext swift-vets-style campaign to smear privatization's opponents dealt itself a mortal blow by playing the gay marriage (???!!!) card right out of the gate.

At this stage of the contest the only thing Bush can do is make a stab at preserving his aura of political invulnerability. After all, he thinks he still has political capital to spend. This is harder to do if the aura is dimmed by a policy defeat of historical proportions. Bush is on his last legs and he knows it. However, he is ahead on points, and if he can stay on his feet until the bell rings, he wins.

The only way the Democrats can lose this fight is if they choose not to win it. The opponents of privatization must summon the resolve to throw the knockout blow, and then stand there and watch Bush fall. The instant they give him bipartisan cover on a deal, no matter how watered down it is, he will declare victory and change the subject. Compromise is surrender. Compromise is defeat.

Think of it this way: if a man says he wants to sleep four times with your wife, is it much of a victory to negotiate him down to sleeping with her only twice?