Is the White House beginning to understand that it has oversold the president's Social Security privatization scheme? George Bush was in New Hampshire today, pushing his plan at a forum that looked an awful lot like those "Ask the President" events from the campaign. Bush rattled off much of his usual misleading sales pitch about his plan -- workers will definitely come out ahead with personal accounts, retirees will get to pass on the money to their survivors, and any number of other promises that range from not-exactly-true to completely false.
But there was a moment there when Bush seemed to realize -- where he actually seemed willing to admit -- that there's a disconnect between his claims about Social Security's insolvency and the need for private investment accounts. A couple of weekends ago at a forum in Tampa, Bush tried to argue -- incomprehensibly -- that private investment accounts would somehow shore up the system's fiscal health. But in New Hampshire Wednesday, Bush admitted that the private investments accounts will not, in fact, fix the Social Security "crisis."
"Certainly," Bush said, "the personal account doesn't fix the system. There needs to be better reforms, more meaningful reforms than that."
It may seem like a small thing. But Bush has been selling his privatization plan in the same way he sold the war in Iraq, by linking up two things that actually have nothing to do with each other. Then it was 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. Now it's Social Security's financial health and his privatization plan. Having now admitted so clearly that privatization won't fix Social Security, Bush has just made it harder for himself to push a linkage that never existed in the first place.