Social Security Silence

Washington Matters

Social Security Silence

You may not have noticed, but we have a semi-serious debate going on over the merits of offshore drilling, with the Washington Post the latest to weigh in on what is a more complex issue than either John McCain and Barack Obama would have us believe. Still, Obama and McCain are making some headway in turning this into a serious discussion. It's too bad they're not doing the same about Social Security.

Both Obama and McCain have touched on the need to fix Social Security financing, but, only with a lot of hesitance, and backpedalling and strategic vagueness.

McCain has said all options must be on the table but when GOP tax-cutters howled, he backed off and said he was against raising payroll taxes (though added that it's still on the table).  He almost looks petrified when talking about the subject. Notice how Social Security is conveniently left out of the "Issues" section of his official website. He calls the financing system both a "disgrace" and "terrible" but says he cannot tell us what he would do.

Obama may address Social Security on his offical issues web page, but he's vague on particulars, except saying he opposes raising the current retirement age and saying he supports some unspecified hike in the Social Security wage cap, though only for those making over $250,000 a year. But Obama rarely mentions the subject unless pressed.


Maybe it makes political sense for both candidates to avoid the issue if they can. And if pressed, I can almost gaurantee that each will tread carefully, calling for a bipartisan blue-ribbon commission to study potential fixes. There's already been a few such Social Security study commissions, and most went nowhere. McCain called for a commission in the 2000 presidential race. I can see both McCain and Obama using the same convenient exit from the issue this fall. 

But one of these guys will be the next president. And with the deficit skyrocketing, there's only so long that the issue can be avoided. Medicare is even a bigger, tougher and much more immediate problem. A debate now would help set the stage for the action that one of them is going to need to take.