If you watch the evening news, you probably feel that Social Security reform is doomed to failure. Not so, says New York Post columnist and former political apparatchik Dick Morris.
“President Bush will succeed in his Social Security changes,” writes Morris, “because he has skillfully drafted them in such a way that the only voters who are affected support his proposal — while the ones who oppose it won’t be affected by it.
“Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that support for private investment skews dramatically by age group. Those aged 18 to 29 back it by 65 percent to 22 percent. Thirtysomething voters support it by 63-28; those in their 40s, 59-30.
“But voters between the ages of 50 and 64 oppose the private-investment option by 49-41, and those over 65, by 63-27.
“So the only voters who oppose private investment are those whom the reforms won’t touch. Those for whom the changes are real, generally support them.”
This will not make the battle over Social Security any less venomous, however. The reason? Ideological issues are at stake.
“It is not that these programs are likely to fail. Democrats fear them because they suspect that they will succeed — that government-run Social Security will henceforth only be for those so poor that they could not amass much in their retirement accounts.
“Once Social Security becomes only for the poor, the Democrats fear, it will be fair game for Republican budget cutters….
“The Republicans, meanwhile, look at Europe and worry that middle-class entitlements will make voters dependent on the government. They fear that we will become like France, where everyone gets a government check and, therefore, nobody minds paying high taxes or will let the government cut the subsidies.”
In other words, two competing world views will make this a bitter battle. “An intellectual hatred is the worst,” the poet William Butler Yeats once wrote. If he were alive today, maybe he would have said an ideological hatred.