Has anyone heard the administration say directly that private accounts are negotiable as part of a deal to restructure Social Security? The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire wonders the same thing:
Singing the Social Security Song, by Deborah Solomon, WSJ Washington Wire: Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson continues to wave the Social Security olive branch towards congressional Democrats, but it still isn’t clear how much negotiating flexibility the White House has given him. Fielding questions from reporters on a trip to London, Paulson said Tuesday, “I am having preliminary discussions with a number of leaders on both sides of the aisle in Senate and House about their priorities and about the need for entitlement reform in the U.S. I am encouraging people on both sides of the aisle to be willing to enter into a discussion that is not preconditioned.”
Paulson’s rhetoric is being interpreted by some in Washington as a sign that the Bush administration won’t insist that Democrats agree to create private accounts as part of a Social Security fix, a sticking point in the past. President Bush, in a press conference the day after Republicans lost their House and Senate majorities, said he had “instructed Secretary Paulson to reach out to folks on the Hill to see if we can’t at least get a dialogue started” about Social Security and the other costly entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid. ...
The president and members of the administration have said clearly in the past that private accounts will remain part of the Social Security reform proposal so long as the president is in office. It would be easy for the administration to clear up the confusion over whether the president has flip-flopped or not if they were inclined to do so. [See also PGL at Angry Bear with Social Security: Is Bush Advocating Add-ons?]