Campaign 2008, Politics

Thompson Grabs “The Third Rail”

The Washington Post has an editorial praising Fred Thompson for his Social Security reform plan:

FRED THOMPSON may have come late to the presidential race, but the former Tennessee senator has produced the most courageous proposal of the campaign. Mr. Thompson’s Social Security plan is not as progressive or as balanced as we would prefer. Yet in a campaign in which candidates have preferred to dodge difficult choices on Social Security, Mr. Thompson’s proposal has attractive elements and deserves applause for making some tough choices.

This campaign season has been quite light on policy—and one of the things that’s so refreshing about Thompson’s campaign is that he isn’t afraid to put out policy specifics. Politically, it’s probably not all that helpful, but it does show that Thompson’s no slouch on key issues.

Entitlement reform needs to be a bigger priority to the GOP. In the immediate future this country faces not just a major shortfall in Social Security, but an even bigger shortfall with Medicare. The 2007 Trustee’s Report for Medicare does not paint a very rosy picture of the future solvency of Medicare, and Social Security doesn’t look much better. We need to reform both of these systems now before the problem becomes a major financial crisis.

So far, Sen. Thompson is the only Republican who has offered a serious and compelling plan for Social Security. Given the gravity of the problem, that needs to change. Thompson deserves the praise he gets for putting himself out on this issue and grabbing the “third rail of American politics.” In the term of the next Administration this country will face the fiscal burden of an aging population of Baby Boomers who threaten the fiscal foundation of our entitlement system. The next Administration will have to reform both Medicare and Social Security whether they want to or not—and voters should consider which candidates are best prepared to handle that critical responsibility.