Political Capital Spelled with a W.
10-22-2010
Let me pause briefly from the relentless midterm election coverage, in order to don my presidential policy hat for a moment. We haven’t heard much from former President George W. Bush since he left office nearly two years ago, but he is just starting to reemerge, in preparation for the release of his memoir, and the groundbreaking for his presidential library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. So, I was interested to read that Bush recently said one of his great regrets as president is that he was never able to accomplish Social Security reform while in office.
 
I remember the moment in 2004 quite vividly, just two days after reelection, when Bush said that his victory over Massachusetts Senator John Kerry gave him a new infusion of political capital, and that he planned to spend this electoral windfall on reforming Social Security. Although it was gratifying to hear a president actually use a term like political capital, which is frequently employed by political scientists as a key theoretical concept, I was immediately skeptical that he could do it. For me, this was the moment when the Bush presidency made its final pivot and headed irreversibly on a downward trajectory throughout the second term.
 
I think that Bush fundamentally miscalculated both the level of political capital replenished by his win, and the expenditure of capital that would be required to even make a dent in Social Security reform, given his preference for account privatization. Bush’s victory against Kerry just wasn’t that big, and he was already undertaking two simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Factor in an economy that was showing early signs of decline, and you had a recipe for failed Social Security reform and the 2006 Republican midterm election disaster. Some political scientists (like me) may believe that political capital is a near perfect analytical concept, but I’ve always thought that in the failure of Social Security reform, it was imperfectly understood by President Bush.

Comments:


Posted On: 10-24-2010 07:28:37 by Jim Splaine
One doesn't "reform" Social Security by stealing from it. That destroys it. The long-standing Republican plan to privatize Social Security is a stockbrokers' and bankers' dream so they'll have more money to manipulate and suck loot from. For those of us who aren't financial morons yet don't pay the game, Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" and "Wall Street II" gives us a visual presentation of "greed" and what all that means.


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