In 2005, at the start of his second term in office, President George W. Bush decided to partially privatize Social Security. Although it topped the president’s agenda for the second term, it failed relatively quickly.
“By early summer, the initiative was on life support, with Congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray. After Hurricane Katrina flooded the president’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. In October, even the president had to admit that his attempt had failed,” according to a 2007 Brookings Institution analysis of the episode.
Few politicians have made Social Security a big part of their agenda in recent years. But now the future of that program has become an unlikely major issue in the 2022 midterm elections.
According to NBC News, that comes from some Republicans calling for changes to the way Social Security works, while their Democratic opponents have tried to take advantage of it.
“Maybe we should privatize Social Security. Right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out,” Blake Masters, the Republican nominee for the Arizona Senate seat, told a forum this summer, though he returned later.
sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), a sitting person who is running before re-election in November, had said in an interview that Social Security and health care should become “discretionary” spending programs. In both cases, Democratic opponents have tried to publicize those comments, including in advertisements.
The first indication of this emerging dynamic came earlier this year, when Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (RSCC), issued an “11-Point Plan to Save America” that incorporated the idea. to repeal all federal law after five years. This was soon interpreted to apply to Social Security.
The plan was swiftly rejected by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and was barely mentioned during the campaign season, except for opponents who pointed to the “sunsetting” provision.
The Democrats have not called for specific Social Security reforms in their election messages, but rather pledged to stand in the way of Republican proposals.
However, President Joe Biden hinted at such reforms in a video statement released earlier this summer on Social Security’s “birthday.”
“Look, if you know me, you know that I think middle-class reconstruction is the moral imperative of our time,” Biden said in the video. “Social Security allows our seniors to retire with dignity, and I and my Democratic friends on the hill are trying to protect and extend it.”
There have been several attempts in Congress to reform Social Security, but the White House has left neither behind.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The national interest, is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. Stephen is a co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.