Let’s be honest about Social Security

It took less than three months for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid to officially degrade to his party’s lowest political tactic: whining.

Reid has apparently taken issue with the Republican National Committee (RNC) for calling him an “obstructionist” in a memo that was distributed to more than one million Republican activists nationwide.

According to NBC’s Ken Strickland, Reid was upset about the RNC’s plans to tarnish him. The tactic is pretty effective and aided in former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle’s recent defeat in South Dakota.

One might think that if Sen. Reid really wanted to avoid Daschle’s fate, he might avoid acting like Daschle. The whining, obstructionist strategy, after all, didn’t work so well for his predecessor.

Reid openly questioned President Bush’s honesty on the Senate floor, suggesting that Bush didn’t really want to reach out to Democrats. “Is President George Bush a man of his word?” Reid asked.

Yet though Reid impugned the president’s integrity, his own record is suspect. You may recall Reid’s complicity in blocking Bush judicial nominees by filibuster in the last congressional session. Clearly, he is an obstructionist.

If that weren’t enough, Reid has also vowed to oppose any plan to create Social Security personal retirement accounts. Following Bush’s State of the Union speech, Reid saved the largest partisan diatribe of the Democratic response to the president’s plan on Social Security reform. “It’s more like Social Security roulette,” he said.

Of course, Reid & Co. objects to the privatization of Social Security for a number of reasons—none of which relates to retirement security and all of which relate to job security for Democratic politicians.

Yet if the current Social Security system were such a great deal, perhaps Sen. Reid can explain why he and the rest of his congressional cronies have far superior retirement plans.

Congressional members can opt out of paying Social Security taxes to participate in a privatized retirement plan—one that is even more privatized than the president has proposed for Social Security.

Yet where was Reid on the subject of private accounts during the Clinton years? He had this to say on Fox News Sunday in February, 1999: “Most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector.”

Where is Reid on private accounts today? In a Feb. 7 Reno Gazette-Journal op-ed piece titled “Social Security is Not in Crisis,” Reid wrote, “The president has tried to argue that privatized accounts are a way to address Social Security’s long-term problems. The truth is, such accounts actually make matters worse, not better.”

OK, this makes sense. Or perhaps it doesn’t.

Reid continued, “Social Security has been a remarkable success. … [It] is the only source of income for one-fifth of seniors.”

According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly benefit as of June 2004 was $926 per month. So, if I understand the senator, roughly 20 percent of all seniors live on about $11,112 per year. The last time I checked, that amount was significantly below the poverty level, and yet the senator considers this a “remarkable success"?

And still Reid & Co. claim there is no crisis.

Indeed, the senator proposed the following for the “remarkable success” that is Social Security: “Instead let’s be careful and take the time needed to do this right.”

By all means, let’s wait for the "crisis" before we do anything. After all, that 20 percent who live in poverty can wait, can’t they?