In booting Social Security reformer, Congress embraces status quo - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

In booting Social Security reformer, Congress embraces status quo

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Posted: Monday, August 6, 2007 12:55 am | Updated: 8:09 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Some people who fear they might be sick choose not to see a doctor; they’d rather remain ignorant than learn that they might have a dreaded disease.

Most people understand, however, that avoiding a diagnosis doesn’t mean a person is avoiding the disease. In fact, such a head-in-the-sand strategy only delays prompt treatment that could save a patient’s life. Too many people put off that critical trip to the doctor, and by the time their condition is discovered it’s too late to hope for a positive outcome.

The U.S. House of Representatives took similar action last month when it booted Andrew G. Biggs out of the Social Security Administration after President Bush named him deputy director. Biggs is one of the top analysts regarding privatization options in Social Security, and it would appear that members of Congress just don’t want to hear what he has to say.

Biggs, who holds a master’s degree from Cambridge University and a doctorate from the London School of Economics and Political Science, has served in the Social Security Administration since 2002, when Bush named him associate commissioner for retirement policy. Before that he was director of the Project on Social Security Choice for the libertarian Cato Institute.

The president nominated Biggs for the deputy commissioner’s job last year, spurring a spirited campaign against Biggs by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, whose name says it all. After nearly half a year of congressional stalling, Bush gave Biggs the job through a recess appointment in April while Congress was on its Easter break. On July 19, the lawmakers retaliated by voting to defund, or eliminate, his position.

It’s a shame Congress didn’t give this guy a chance. Biggs’ credentials suggest that he is one of the nation’s top researchers, and he has studied Social Security, particularly privatization, for more than a decade. Few people would know the pros and cons of each scenario — after all, it’s been his job for the past several years.

A growing number of Americans, particularly young workers, believe that Social Security will be bankrupt before they retire. As someone who has studied the idea of privatizing Social Security for years, and who advocates offering options to people who are just entering the work force, Biggs seems to be the perfect person to develop strategies that would give people more options, and more control over their own retirement accounts.

Congress has the last word on Social Security — it can accept or reject any of Biggs’ proposals. But they should be willing to at least hear those proposals — they might actually have merit. Kicking him out of the administration doesn’t change the program or Congress’ duty to address its possible failure; it only deprives lawmakers of valuable information that could help them determine the best course to take with a program that many older Americans depend on, and that many younger Americans don’t trust.

Social Security’s solvency has been in question for some time, and the longer Congress delays in addressing the problem, the more dire it is likely to become, and the more unpleasant any reform is likely to be. Getting rid of Andrew Biggs only makes Congress’ job harder, and could create delays the prove fatal to a program that is already in critical condition.

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