The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes reports today that he and fellow conservative Bill Kristol met with President Bush last Friday for a lunch in the president’s “private dining room adjacent to the Oval Office.” According to Barnes, the “left-wing haters” are “going to be disappointed when they see his demeanor as he leaves his eight-year presidency” because Bush “appears comfortable with what he expects his legacy will be.”
Speaking of Bush’s legacy, Barnes reports that the president cited his push to privatize Social Security as his biggest domestic policy accomplishment:
On domestic policy, Bush was asked if he made progress in some areas for which he hasn’t and probably won’t get credit. Topping his list was his unsuccessful drive in 2005 to reform Social Security. Bush said his effort showed it’s politically safe to campaign on changing Social Security and then actually seek to change it.
He also said it was important to have raised private investment accounts as an attractive option in reforming Social Security.
It seems odd that Bush cited an unsuccessful effort as his biggest domestic policy achievement, but understandable given that he doesn’t have much else to consider. But not only was Bush’s drive to privatize Social Security an utter failure, the concept is also widely unpopular with the American public and if enacted, it would have had disastrous consequences for Americans’ retirement funds.
A recent Center for American Progress Action Fund report found that if a worker had retired on October 1, 2008 after 35 years of contributions to private retirement accounts, that retiree would have lost nearly $30,000 in retirement funds because of the downturn in the stock market over the last two years.
Part of the reason Bush’s push failed was that very few people actually believed he was trying to reform Social Security and instead thought he was trying to dismantle it. Even back in 2005, despite a lack of support for privatization, the Bush administration was insisting that their efforts were a “great success.”
Indeed, a recent CNN poll found that 62 percent of Americans oppose privatizing any part their Social Security taxes. But seeing that Bush regularly ignores what Americans think, its no wonder he thinks he doesn’t get enough credit for his privatization crusade.