Why Conservatives Hate Social Security

By Bruce Webb

PGL raises and answers this question over at Econospeak Health Care Debate: So This is Why Conservatives Hate Social Security. Or rather he allows Conservatives in the person of Michael Cannon at Cato admit the fundamental truth: successful government social programs fatally undercut future political success for the Right. Cannon: Blocking Obama’s Health Plan is Key to the GOP’s Survival

PGL sums it up as follows:

Truth be told – this is a major reason why conservatives want to undermine the Social Security program. Yes – they do try to tell us it’s some sort of Ponzi scheme, which of course, is just blatant dishonesty. But the real reason that they hate Social Security is that it is popular – as well as good policy from the perspective of those who care at least as much about the working class as the investor class.

Another way of saying this is that the debate over Social Security is not and never really has been about the best way to insure retirement security for workers, opponents simply don’t care that their numbers don’t add up, when indeed they use numbers at all. Instead they approach the subject from two conjoined perspectives: one that Social Security (and Universal Health Care coverage) is Socialism and/or two that Social Security (and Universal Health Care) if perceived to be successful are political winners for the Democrats for possibly decades to come.

In practice it is hard to separate out the Hayekians who believe that all of this is just the first steps on the Road to Serfdom from the Rovians who believe that successful social programs are instead the Road to Political Oblivian for the Republican Party from the Sheep who simply know what they have been told. And of course these groups all to a degree cross-cut, it is difficult to reliably differentiate knave from fool. But no one who cares about Social Security or Universal Health Care coverage should assume that the opposition they encounter are solely motivated by data about program effectiveness and relative costs, that you are going to get through to these people by explaining how small the problem is in the case of Social Security or how honest cross-country cost/outcome numbers show that other developing countries get more bang for their health care buck, that is to make the simple mistake that political discourse on these topics is fundamentally Reality Based instead of being what it really is: driven by ideology on one hand and political outcomes on the other.

For many, many people the claim “There is no Crisis” is not the answer to a specific problem, instead it IS the problem. Without ‘Crisis’ they got nothing. And the smarter, better informed ones know it (hence the whiff of panic floating around the halls of Cato).