What George Bush learned from the Democrats

By Tim Grieve

Published February 1, 2005 2:35PM (EST)

The privatization of Social Security will be a centerpiece of George W. Bush's State of the Union address Wednesday night. But a funny thing happened on the way to the joint session of Congress. The White House has talked to some Democrats, and it has learned a thing or two about Social Security.

The Washington Post reports that, "after surveying roughly half a dozen Senate Democrats whom the White House considers potential converts to Bush's plan, the president and his congressional allies realize they must limit the budget impact of creating a new system and protect lower-income workers, who rely heavily on Social Security for their retirement income." The Post treats this as some kind of revelation -- that it wouldn't have occurred to the White House that changes to Social Security shouldn't break the bank and that Social Security itself should provide some protection for low-income workers. We would have thought that these things were self-evident, at least to people interested in shoring up the safety of Social Security rather than the fortunes of Wall Street.

But it was news to the Republicans, apparently, and they've taken it to heart. While there's no evidence that Bush is rethinking his privatization scheme, Ohio Rep. Rob Portman assures the Post that "the administration as a whole is committed to an unprecedented effort to better communicate the proposal."

The emphasis is ours, and so is the relief that we feel.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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