As Paul Krugman points out, when things go south for the Bush crowd, they change the subject. Well, the crusade to reform Social Security has taken on more water than the Titanic, so be on the lookout for a national security alert – Mars Attacks! – or something like that.
But that seems to be just one prong in their plan of attack. As they have proven so well in the past, the Bushies don’t try to work with their opponents; they try to destroy them. The groundwork is already being laid for a slash-and-burn campaign against any and all who might dare to raise a question or a different approach to privatization. Josh Marshall at TPM has been all over this story, the most recent being the web of intrigue being spun by Rove’s minions at USANext, a front group for a collection of astroturfers under the umbrella of everyone from Focus on the Family to Bill Bennett (bringing in his recovering whales from Gamblers Anonymous, I assume). These are people who really know how to handle seniors’ money, right?
The one thing these groups have proven to be woefully adept at is changing the subject. This has worked in the Gannon/Guckert case, where they’ve worked manfully (pun intended) to get the issue off the possible breach of security at the White House to the violation of poor James Guckert because he’s a gay hooker with a heart of conservative gold (and a dick of steel to match, eh?) The tactic of USANext will be to demonize AARP and paint them as a bunch of cranky old liberal queer fogeys allied with the NAACP and ACT UP – something akin to the Pink Panthers.
All this does is get us off the point, which is an intelligent and measured approach to reforming Social Security with the long-term goal of making adjustments to it that will give it perpetual motion. It requires some tough choices, such as perhaps raising the retirement age, removing the cap on income taxed, or even (horrors!)rolling back the Bush tax cut. But these folks do not make tough choices and they know our nation’s collective attention span is roughly that of six-year-old: “Social Security is in crisis – oh, look at the kitty!” That combined with an orange alert about a sleeper cell in Toledo will make meaningful Social Security reform as likely as Hillary’s health care was in 1993.