The Bush administration concedes that the president's plan for private investment accounts won't do anything to improve the financial health of the Social Security system. The plan will have a "net neutral effect," the administration says, meaning that, whatever Washington does with Bush's proposal, it will have to come up with some other way to "save" Social Security. Does the president understand that? You be the judge.
As his Social Security roadshow pulled into Tampa, Fla., over the weekend, Bush was asked how his plan would ensure that Social Security won't run out of money down the road. Here, straight from the White House Web site, is the president's answer in its entirety:
"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to what has been promised.
"Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of things that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.
"Okay, better? I'll keep working on it."