Will the GOP pay a political price over failed Social Security reform the way Bill Clinton paid a price for failed health care reform in midterm elections during his presidency? Would you be surprised to find out that the NRO doesn’t think so? Here’s Ramesh Ponnuru:
The Cost of Failure - On Social Security, it may turn out to be surprisingly low, Ramesh Ponnuru, NRO: The conventional wisdom … has been that President Bush would fail to get Social Security reform through Congress. … the conventional wisdom was right. … For a president to fail in his signature domestic initiative of his second term is no small thing. Yet the political impact of that failure may not be substantial. Democrats have hoped that they could make Republicans pay for broaching the issue, and Republicans that Democrats would pay for obstruction. But it's not clear that either party is going to pay. … Many Democrats have predicted that Social Security would be for Bush what health-care reform was for President Clinton: the issue that broke his majority. But the timing is very different. Clinton's health plan crashed and burned in the months just prior to the midterm elections. Bush's Social Security plan is dying with more than a year to go before elections. ... The failure of the Clintons' health-care plan took comprehensive health-care reform off the table in Washington for more than a decade. Republicans do not seem nearly so skittish about Social Security reform. If they pick up a few more Senate seats … there is no reason they cannot take up the issue again… The main thing the president has lost, meanwhile, is time. He'll never have the first few months of his second term again.
I appreciated that he did not jump on the bandwagon and try to hang a political price on the Democrats by blaming them for failed reform; instead this looks like an attempt to create self-fulfilling expectations of no political price for the GOP. Note also the assumption and explicit statement that reform is dead even though political games remain afoot. I've heard quite a bit lately about revisiting Social Security reform next year. But unless there are large changes in the political landscape, and more importantly in public opinion which in the end refused to be swayed by the administration's proposal, I wonder if that is wise. Another year bogged down in attempted Social Security reform may make it more difficult to pass other legislation such as tax reform initiatives currently in the works, and to the extent that is true perhaps my worries about this coming back to haunt us again next year are misplaced.