July 28th 11:49:31 PM
The Associated Press wrote last week about Senator Obama's Social Security reform plans, criticizing the candidate for "providing few details on basic questions." This criticism is well-deserved, though the AP could just as easily have written the same thing about Senator McCain. Thus far, both candidates have been frustratingly vague on the issue.
One reason to target Obama may be that he went out of his way to make Social Security reform an issue during the Democratic primaries. Back before the Iowa caucus, Obama was very clear that he -- in contrast to Senator Clinton -- had a specific plan to fix Social Security: eliminate the payroll tax cap for those making over $250,000 a year.
Once people began to crunch the numbers, though, it turned out that a payroll tax cap elimination was an expensive way to address a small portion of the problem. (In truth, the SSA had done the math long before Obama came out with "his" plan, which was the same one advocated by Senator Edwards.)
When word of this got out, Obama's policy folks changed some of the numbers to make the tax increase less burdensome. The result, of course, is that the current plan fixes even less of the problem than the original proposal.
Which leads to a question: If fixing Social Security for our generation is so important to Obama (as it was back in Iowa), then why does his current plan address less than a quarter of the shortfall?
As mentioned, Senator McCain should also offer more details. So far we know that he supports personal accounts as well as benefit cuts, but what exactly does that mean? Progressive indexing? Raising the retirement age?
Restoring long-term solvency to Social Security will necessitate leadership on several fronts, but it would be useful to voters if Obama and McCain were each to explain -- at least in the hypothetical -- which options he could support.
Posted by Ryan Lynch