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Bush Barn Burning

The Boston Globe notes the dim prospects for privatizing Social Security, highlighting that Bush's "campaign-style" barn storming tour has failed to sway any Congressional leaders. Even Nebraska's Ben Nelson is backing away from the table, the menu prices too high, the restaurant too riddled with vermin, and the food nowhere to be seen.

Senator Ben Nelson, of Nebraska, who has signaled more willingness to support Bush's ideas than any other Senate Democrat, said he needs more details before he can sign on to any reform plan.

Nelson noted that Bush has not yet said who would be allowed to establish the accounts, how deeply benefits would have to be cut for younger workers, or how he would manage the increased debt his plan would incur, which the White House estimates at $750 billion over the next decade.
Bush yesterday offered no new details of how his plan would be financed, but neither did he show signs of letting up in his attempts to lobby a skeptical public and skittish lawmakers on the need for major changes. He visited Nebraska, Arkansas, and Florida, capping a two-day campaign-style tour that took him to five states he carried in November -- each of which has at least one Democratic senator whom Bush is trying to win over.

"I'm going to spend a lot of time traveling our country talking about the problem, because I fully understand that in the halls of Congress, if people do not believe we have a problem, nothing is going to happen," Bush said in Omaha. "The debate should really shift to those who've got the most at stake in inaction. The status quo is unacceptable to younger workers, and younger workers understand that in America."
Bush's approach is to ratchet up the disingenuousness. If he doesn't convince the people of an untruth, his double-plus good agenda will fail. Democrats aren't buying:
"Democrats recognize that the Social Security system faces long-term challenges but are not going to lurch into a crisis where none exists," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Bush said he would combat misconceptions surrounding his plan, and work with Congress to fashion a fair solution to the long-term problems in Social Security.

"I know you have all these wild estimates of costs -- Bush wants to spend this, that, and the other," the president said. "On personal accounts -- admittedly, new concept, hard for some to understand. And it's just going to take a while for people to hear the debate and get used to the concept."
Bush's plan doesn't start phasing in until 2009 - four years from now. Only the first six years of the plan, which phases in slowly over time, is included in the $750 million cost estimate produced by the White House. The "wild estimate" of $2 trillion over the first ten years of the program, also known as "accurate," will be difficult to dislodge from the public consciousness. Bush will try, of course.


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