Joe the Plumber 2008

My mind is made up. I am writing in Joe Wurzelbacher. (As long as I don’t find out what else he thinks.)

I imagine this video was posted by the folks at TPM on the assumption that Joe’s entirely sound judgment about the deeply flawed American Social Security system is some kind of disgrace. I invite Joe the Plumber, and especially those who find Joe’s opinion disgraceful, to consider the argument of my paper “Noble Lies, Liberal Purposes, and Personal Retirement Account.” The argument grown ups should be having is between getting rid of the Social Security system and replacing it with means-tested welfare benefits for retirees, or forced savings programs. I’m on the forced savings side, which Joe might see as unduly paternalistic. But there’s not really a serious argument for not getting rid of the status quo Social Security system. It’s just darn effective democratic politics for the Democratic Party to continue defending it as if it was the last bulwark against Hobbesian brutality. (Not even exaggerating!) And so those of us who would like a policy more like Australia’s or Sweden’s will continue to be characterized as running dogs of Capital, enemies of the Volk, and grandma-haters to boot. Meanwhile, Joe the Plumber will continue to have the right idea.

I still think privatizing Social Security would basically ensure Obama’s legacy, and could be massively popular if the rest of the Party and the intellectual/media types decided to get behind it. The main question for the Party is whether being able to take credit for it would sufficiently compensate electorally for taking the issue off the table. I think it would. And it might help them get more of what they want on health care. The question for the op-ed axis is whether the need to preserve some semblance of intellectual integrity  would allow them to turn on a dime. Obama may need to ease them into it, but if anyone could, he’s the guy.

Also: Does market volatility debunk personal accounts? No.

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