Back in 1998, 1999, and 2000 there was a deal to be struck: bring the existing Social Security system back into balance with a combination of (small) tax increases and (moderate) future benefit cuts, and supercharge it with add-on private but regulated and insured personal accounts. But neither Gingrich, Hastert, Armey, Delay, or Lott were interested in such a deal--it would give another substantive public-policy victory to Bill Clinton, you see. After 2000 Bush was interested in--well, it was never clear what Bush was interested in, for different advisors said very different things, and Bush never proposed a planBut the deal that was there to be struck in 1998, 1999, and 2000 is still there to be struck, if program design and decision-making can be moved out of the White House to locations with credibility.
Brad is wrong on two counts here. First, that the sole reason that a Social Security reform deal was not struck during the 2nd Clinton Term was to deny Clinton a policy victory. Now, that certainly would have been sufficient reason for any of the kooks he mentions to prevent it from happening, but that's not the main reason the GOP Congressional leadership would never have struck such a deal with Clinton. The reason is that they want Social Security destroyed, not reformed. It's really that simple. All this talk of grand reform is simply a canard the current republican party leaders throw around at Beltway reporters to perpetuate the Kabuki Theater of bipartisanship they act out in front of the Tim Russerts and David Broders of the beltway press. The idea that anyone other than a few moderate republican dead-enders would even contemplate doing anything to a) help the long term survival of Social Security or b) socialize the risks of retirment even further is profoundly absurd.
The second point that Brad is wrong about is the notion that negotiation on a complex policy issue is remotely possible with anyone in the Republican Party in Washington. The whole party from top to bottom has developed and fed upon a visceral hatred of the New Deal and anything to do with it, and with a few exceptions, has purged anyone from the leadeship in the GOP in Washington who has the slightest interest or competenence in a complex policy solution, particularly to a problem they don't believe exists! The only solution is to drive them so far out of power that even the post-Hoover wilderness will look like the Elyisian Fields by comparison.