Rolling Stone interviews Krugman on Social Security:
In selling the idea that there's a crisis, Bush has a lot of powerful words on his side: "choice," "freedom," "ownership society." What words do you have to counter his sales job?
Scam. Three-card monte. I've been thinking a lot about flying pigs. The privateers are claiming that you can have something for nothing. They're basically saying, "Let's assume that pigs can fly." And when you say, "You know, it's not good to assume that pigs can fly," they respond by saying, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand the enormous advantage of flying pigs?"
The only reason they talk about how wonderful an ownership society would be is because we managed to win the battle over the word privatization. The Cato Institute -- which is the intellectual headquarters for all this stuff -- founded something in 1995 called the Project on Social Security Privatization. But focus groups don't like that word, so in 2002 they changed the name to the Project on Social Security Choice. They didn't announce a name change -- they just went back and scrubbed their Web site, so there's no indication that it was ever called "privatization."
If there's no crisis in Social Security, why aren't the Democrats saying that more clearly and forcefully?
There's a lot of timidity. They're desperately afraid of seeming like "Oh, well -- we have our heads in the sand, and we're not active." I would like to see them step up to the plate and say that these claims that we're going to have a crisis sometime in the next fifteen years is just garbage. Bush is handing them an opportunity by making this the centerpiece of his agenda. Democrats should treat privatizing Social Security the way Republicans treated Clinton's health-care plan -- they should say, "This is a disaster, and we will stand against it." Social Security is simply not the biggest problem facing the government today.