Holy smoke! No sooner than President Bush makes a proposal on Social Security, the daggers come out. Here’s what to look for in the coming debate. There is little doubt in my mind that this debate will degenerate into the typical acrimony and divisiveness we all so used to on tough political issues. The politicos and organized interest groups will stake out their positions, use the Social Security to rally their troops and raise dollars from their faithful, and make sure little progress is made.
But, this issue, if engaged, could help the nation sort out some important concerns that have been just beneath the political surface for some time, such as:
- What is the social covenant today? Americans are deeply torn and concerned over what the social covenant is between and among them. This issue, clearly, raises such concerns and the opportunity to debate them.
- What is my own obligation? In a society that is so consumer driven, where we expect to get what we want when we want it, there is the question about what our own obligation is to secure our future. This debate provides the opportunity to discuss this important issue.
- What is the public good, and what sacrifice will I make for it? Here, there is the question of what kind of society do we want, and what do each of us need to ante up in order to create that society. This debate requires that, at some point, we engage as citizens, not just as individuals.
Each of these questions is riddled with problems today – for people do not believe that it is possible to strike a deal amongst themselves, and between citizens and the government, that will be honored. What’s more, there is a notion among people, according to my own research, that “sacrifice is for suckers.”
But if we ask these three questions, we can begin to generate a different kind of debate. That would be good for the nation, and for each individual. More on this in the coming days.