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Commentary by Greg Lewis / TheRant.US
One of the tactics frequently employed by left-leaning politicos and activists (including Teddy Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, and Harry Reid, who represent the phalanx of the left wing of the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress) is to introduce into the public debate a "MacGuffin," to use film director Alfred Hitchcock's term for a plot device that diverts viewers' attention from the real issues at hand. Under Hitchcock's not infrequently perverse direction, the MacGuffin became a means of manipulating the audience away from discovering in advance the ultimate resolution of a film's conflict.
The Democrat Party has most recently employed this tactic in the debate about Social Security reform, which is arguably one of the two or three most pressing domestic concerns we face today, preempting even Medicare reform as the single most critical domestic issue we need to address and begin to resolve during President Bush's second term.
Despite the fact that the President has not yet formulated — let alone presented publicly — a specific set of proposals for addressing the looming Social Security shortfall, Democrats have somehow managed to come forth with an agenda that would "eliminate the President's plan for private Social Security accounts" from the arena of public debate. To put it another way: Even though the President has not articulated a specific program for Social Security reform that includes private accounts, but has only sought to open up the subject to general public discussion, Democrats have preemptively asserted that private accounts are "inadmissable evidence," and that if private accounts remain on the table, they (the Democrats) will simply refuse to participate in the debate.
This is not to say that the President is not on the stump actively promoting personal accounts; it is to say, again, that the President has not come forth with any specific plan for Social Security reform but has simply stated the obvious truth that Social Security needs to be reformed and that all proposals for reform should be considered in the public debate. For that matter, you can't throw a stone in the Senate without hitting someone who has or is about to come forward with a plan for saving our national retirement entitlement, at least on the Republican side of the aisle.
The Democratic Left's attempts to preempt legitimate discussion on the issue recently suffered something of a setback in the House Ways and Means Committee. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) attempted to badger David Walker, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the non-partisan Government Accountability Office of Congress, into admitting that personal accounts should not be part of the debate. Walker, while acknowledging that implementing personal Social Security accounts without addressing future Social Security revenue shortfalls could be problematic, responded correctly that there were more pressing issues than personal accounts to be addressed and that to peremptorily exclude personal accounts from consideration was not only ill-advised, it was off the mark.
Democrat fractiousness has even taken the form of the party's threatening to shut down the government if Republicans insist on continuing to push the idea of personal Social Security accounts. This has led James Carville, that most contumacious of lib honks, to circulate a memo in Dem circles declaring that, not only is his party perceived by the public as appearing to "lack direction, conviction, values, advocacy or a larger public purpose" (you'll get no argument from me on these points, Jimbo), but where their position on reforming Social Security is concerned, "Democrats seem stuck in concrete."
The debate, as it so often does these days, hinges on fundamental philosophical differences between liberal Democrats and rather more conservative Republicans. Where Republicans tend to favor policies and programs that empower individual citizens by giving them greater control over how their federal tax money is spent, Democrats invariably lean toward supporting policies and enacting legislation that gives more and more control over American citizens' financial choices to a central government.
As it currently stands, no matter how much you pay into your Social Security account during your working life, your benefits cease when you die — even if you survive for only a few months after you retire — and they cannot be passed on to your spouse or your children. It's the ultimate perverse socialist program: From each according to how much we can fleece him for; to each until the poor sucker croaks or until we can imprison him for crimes against the state, and the hell with his family.
As if playing out some predetermined role in the grand scheme of politics, Democrats continue to cling to a strategy which marks them as not much more than shills for a leftist agenda committed to confiscating Americans' earnings for the purpose of increasing the power of the Federal government over our lives, while at the same time diminishing the influence of individual citizens over their financial destinies.
Indeed, while Dems' tactic of attacking the chimera of a Republican commitment to personal Social Security accounts might seem to carry some weight in the current debate, in fact it will ultimately be revealed to be nothing more than a MacGuffin, a false lead inserted into the ongoing historical narrative that is being played out on the national stage.
If Alfred Hitchcock acknowledged the effectiveness of the MacGuffin with regard to his artistic creations, it is up to us to recognize that Democrats' obsessive focus on the issue of personal accounts is itself nothing more than a MacGuffin. Their use of this tactic throws into stark relief their lack of a cohesive program to deal with the exigencies of Social Security reform, and it represents a duplicitous attempt to divert our attention from the desired outcome of this real and compelling domestic issue.
But don't take it from me. Take it from Hitch. Hell, take it from Jim Carville.