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Late last week the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security presented the outlines of a plan to reform Social Security, including the establishment of personal retirement accounts. Later this year they will issue what is expected to be a very positive set of recommendations. The commission’s work will be bi-partisan, thorough, well documented and bold. And unless something changes, the report will go nowhere.
A report will not get Congress to act. As good as it is, and as honorable as the people who served on the commission probably are, politicians in an election year will not respond to 250 page sets of recommendations. As one Republican source told the Washington Post, “"Any recommendation that would be brought to the Hill this year would be dead on arrival, because no one is going to allow Democrats to beat Republicans with it in an election year."
Politicians do, however, respond to organized, activist-voters. That is how the world works. It isn’t right nor is it wrong. It just is. And for those of us who want to see fundamental social security reform, we all have to engage in the long, tedious, outside-the-beltway work of recruiting and organizing these activist citizens.
The big battles, like Social Security reform will be fought and won in the streets, with real citizen activists willing to go beyond the call of duty. Economic freedom cannot be won in think tank conference centers or in the pages of policy analyses. The scale of activity in the streets must be focused, targeted, and intense. We must provide grassroots support for those political leaders willing to stand up against the attacks from the left. Grassroots pressure must be so overwhelming that the media has no choice but to acknowledge broad-based grassroots support for limited government and economic freedom.
Easier said than done? I don’t think so. It just takes commitment, time and resources. The Organized Left has built a standing army of activist that strikes fear in politicians. The National Rifle Association has done it as well. The economic liberty movement can do it as well, if we keep the right focus.
First, we must commit to putting more energy and effort into educating and organizing than we do into analyzing the footnotes of every legislative proposal that comes out of Washington each day. Second, not every legislative or electoral loss is a defeat and not every win is a victory. Instead, each battle, win or lose, should be seen as an opportunity to recruit new activists and improve our organizational skills.
That’s why I look at the Social Security Commission’s final report as not the be all and end all, but as an opportunity. I don’t expect to agree with everything in it. I have my doubts that Republicans in Congress will rush to pass a bill in an election year. But the Commission acted and reported. It will receive significant national media coverage and Congress will be forced to respond in some manner – even if just rhetorically. And, Citizens for a Sound Economy will seize this as an opportunity to educate more potential activists and to expand our organizational capabilities. We will provide real citizens’ outside-the-beltway with the education and tools they need to get involved in the political process. Our activist army will grow stronger, even if the politicians decide, in the short run, to cut and run.
The fight for economic liberty is a long, tedious and tough war. But it can be won and I’m confident there are more than enough patriots throughout the country just waiting for us to ask for their help. And, I ask for your help in providing the resources needed to build this standing army of activists. I hope you will consider a contribution to help make good policy good politics.