There’s been an ongoing campaign amongst supporters of President Bush’s 2005 Social Security privatization scheme to rewrite the history books and claim that they were never in favor of such an idea. Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), for instance, asserted in August that “I’ve never said I favor privatizing Social Security. It’s a very misleading — it’s an intentionally misleading term.” But when Bush released his plan, Toomey reacted like this: “I have been arguing for many years in favor of Social Security personal retirement accounts…I’m thrilled that the President is taking up this critical issue.”
Another advocate of privatization who is now running away from the term is former Bush budget director Rob Portman, who is campaigning for the open Senate seat in Ohio. During a debate last night, Portman claimed that it’s “just not accurate” to say that he supports privatization:
In terms of the attack a moment ago, another partisan attack by my opponent that’s just not accurate. I do not support privatization of Social Security. What I do support is strengthening Social Security for the future.
Following the debate, Portman’s spokesman said that those claiming he supports privatization are “clearly lying.” But if anything is clear, it’s that Portman was an unabashed supporter of privatization, calling private Social Security accounts “the greatest force in the universe” and lauding Bush for his “political leadership and courage on this issue”:
“There’s also Social Security ideas there, including private accounts…which over the long haul results in a higher rate of return for that program. So that’s something that does actually over the long haul deal with the solvency issue.” [Human Events Online, 4/9/08]
“I mean, this is what Einstein talked about, the magic, the greatest force in the universe, the power of compounding interest. That’s what we’re talking about here.” [House Budget Committee Hearing, 2005]
“President Bush has demonstrated political courage and leadership on this issue. We must develop sound policies now, to reduce the rate of growth and put these programs on a sustainable footing for the future.” [OMB swearing-in ceremony, 6/6/2006]
Contrary to Portman’s pronunciations that privatized accounts are safe and will certainly result in a higher rate of return, such accounts impose new risks on seniors, create new administrative costs and benefit reductions, and won’t even set the Social Security system on a path to solvency. And instead of trying to fashion a workable proposal, Portman simply denies that his idea is what it is.