ROBERT SAMUELSON: Obama’s Social Security Failure.
President Obama unintentionally damaged his legacy recently by urging an expansion of Social Security benefits and, thereby, reminding everyone (and particularly future historians) that he failed to deal with one of the largest issues facing the country: an aging society.
“It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned,” he said in Elkhart, Ind.
Actually, it isn’t.
Obama perpetuates the popular but outdated myth that, by and large, the elderly are a poor, needy group. That they deserve more financial help. The 65-and-over population exceeds 46 million. Some fit this description. Most do not. . . .
What’s missing in the skimpy discussion of these issues — it’s hardly a debate — is candor. Only the president can challenge outdated ideas. Obama didn’t do so. He has not used the “bully pulpit” to educate the public about the demands of an aging society: the pressures on government budgets; the need for Americans to work longer, accommodating greater life expectancy; the conflicts between generations.
None of this will escape historians, who will — in the future — observe the powerful economic, social and political effects of an aging society. It will affect their verdict on the failure of Obama and congressional Republicans to reach a Grand Bargain on the budget, a failure reflecting both Republican resistance to higher taxes and Democrats’ unwillingness to make meaningful reductions in Social Security and other “entitlements.”
The historians will ask: Why didn’t we better prepare for a predictable future? Obama’s record does not provide a flattering answer.
When President Bush tried to fix Social Security in 2005, Democrats blocked him, and applauded their own success at doing so. Obama is merely continuing the tradition of deliberately blowing things up.