Premature gloom?

John Fund’s “On the trail” column this morning is on the Social Security debate: “The personal ‘lockbox.'” The column begins by questioning the pessimism of conservatives who see President Bush’s plan going nowhere in the current environment. Fund’s proposal seems partly to substantiate that pessimism. He nevertheless counsels perseverance based on the popularity of “choice” in retirement options and advocates a variation of the personal account that plays on the “lockbox” theme.
Didn’t Al Gore’s use of the “lockbox” rhetoric make it a joke? This doesn’t seem to me like promising material, but Fund quotes personal accounts supporter Rep. Paul Ryan, who will be at the Claremont Institute’s Aspen summer policy retreat, as receptive to it.
UPDATE: Reader Mark Sternick writes:

I’m surprised that Republicans haven’t already made it a talking point that the debate about private accounts is all about the “lockbox.” Dems want the money now to satisfy public employees. It’s all public employee pork we’re arguing about and it’s private sector workers who are being hurt by it. Private accounts really do put the money in a “lockbox” and turning that phrase around against the Dems with an easily explained larger meaning is a good way to present the case to the voters. I mean, this is public sector/private sector class warfare. Let’s make the case for the private sector, which is being unfairly treated/cheated.
It was time, from the beginning for Republicans to make the lockbox argument their own except, this time, it’s true. Nothing better than to contrast a Republican “lockbox” with a Dem “lockbox” to educate the private sector public about the unfairness of what’s happening. Public employees and related gov’t. funded private groups, sorry to say, will always be adverse interest bloc.

Katherine Winterer writes:

I wish someone with your reach would MENTION the success of the public sector and the subject. They eschew all contributions to Social Security (illegal for real people) and contribute all to their private accounts. Generally, they’re able to retire on about three/quarters of their ending salaries! That certainly is a lot more than we get after being with IBM Corp for 32 years!
Now the NEA is screaching in an advert about how the awful President wants to ‘privatize’ our social security. Teachers can get social security if they work in private industry after retiring; that should be forbidden.

Citing this Fox News report, Alex Makowski writes:

It appears that Bill Clinton may share John’s [I think he’s referring to our John Hinderaker rather than to the linked column by John Fund] perspective that Bush’s approach to social security reform isn’t so risky. Once a true debate on reform is joined, it’s hard to see how the Republicans could risk, for example, losing control of the House or Senate over the issue.

Robert John writes:

Its not true that Federal employees don’t contribute to the SS system. That system was the CSRS system which ended in 1986. The current retirement system “FERS” consists of social security contributions and voluntary contributions to the Federal Thrift savings plan.

Richard Faber writes:

As a teacher of 32 years in public schools in New Jersey, I can tell you that Ms. Winterer doesn’t have all the facts. Her comment appears to paint all teachers as not paying into SS. That is NOT true in NJ. I have paid SS tax on my teacher’s salary every year I taught. (I also pay into a private 401 account since I don’t have much hope of SS being there when I’m old enough to collect!) It may be true that some teachers retire at 3/4 salary but they have to teach for more than 35 years to do so.

Gary Watts writes:

“They [the public sector] eschew all contributions to Social Security (illegal for real people).”
Actually, only the public sector in the following states “eschew.” [Some big states, though — about 1/3 of the public ed workforce according to the NEA website.]

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