Even some Democrats seem to think that Mr. Gore’s attacks occasionally go over the top…Today Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York Democrat who supports investing some of the Social Security trust fund in private markets, took issue with [Gore’s use of] the word “privatization.”
“That’s a scare word,” said Mr. Moynihan, who supported Mr. Bradley in the primaries but has since endorsed the vice president.
Although, in fairness, it must be noted that after doing perhaps more than any Democrat to make bad welfare reform policy possible Moynihan did cast a wholly meaningless vote against the final version.
This episode illustrates a rather obvious problem with the “Overton Window” concept, the 21st century version of the Laffer Curve (that is, a sloppy cocktail napkin concept with a grain of truth used to make difficult problems conveniently vanish.) The assumption seems to be that if a president (or perhaps other public official) proposes something it shifts the ideological spectrum in that direction even if it doesn’t pass. But Bush’s push to privatize Social Security, to the extent that it affected things at all, apparently had the opposite effect. In 2000, a Democratic senator from New York was running interference for Bush’s nutty Social Security policy. Now, House Republican budgets refuse to propose any changes to Social Security, and the biggest “threat” to Social Security is a bad nominal proposal to slow the rate of benefit growth intentionally presented in a form that have no chance of passing, a pretense that Obama has thankfully given up. There’s no reason to believe, in either theory or practice, that trying and miserably failing to do something will make it easier to do next time.