. . . and the Democrats' Reply

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Friday, August 4, 2006

YOU MIGHT THINK that a call from the new Treasury secretary for reform of entitlements would get a respectful hearing from Democrats. If entitlement programs are not reformed, they will squeeze out other spending programs that Democrats care about; they will create a budget crunch that no responsible party could want. But some Democrats do not appear to understand this. Yesterday an e-mail sent out on behalf of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, dismissed Henry M. Paulson Jr.'s comments on "privatizing" Social Security, adding that this policy has been "soundly rejected by the American people."

The Social Security reform that President Bush pushed last year involved personal retirement accounts. But it did not involve "privatization": The accounts, which were to be optional, were to be designed and administered by the government, with no opportunities for Wall Street salesmen to foist enormous hidden fees on unsuspecting workers. Besides, the idea that the American people rejected Mr. Bush's plan is only half true. The president failed to get traction not least because Democrats were doing their best to scare voters into thinking that their retirement checks would be confiscated.

In his speech Tuesday, Mr. Paulson did not say that he wanted to reintroduce last year's administration proposal. Instead, he said that his approach would be bipartisan and that he aimed to address entitlements because "when there is a big problem that needs fixing, you should run toward it, rather than away from it." He even said that it was this philosophy that led him to give up a top Wall Street job to come to Washington. Now Ms. Pelosi's office is saying what it thinks of these sentiments: Forget bipartisanship, forget problem-solving. We hope other Democrats will be less cynical.


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