April 28, 2017

A Touchable ‘Third Rail’

July 6, 2010
Congressional Quarterly


Obama appointed a bipartisan fiscal policy commission in February and charged its members with developing a plan by the end of this year to reverse the growth in government debt. Changes to Social Security are widely expected to be among the panel’s recommendations. It won’t be the first time in recent history that presidents have tried to tackle the issue: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both tried and failed. But they were operating in a different political environment.

“A lot of factors come together that make it more plausible that you could get reform now than in the past,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a group that publicizes the dangers of the government’s rising debt. “Before, people looked at Social Security reform in an isolated sense and not as part of larger fiscal plan for the nation, and I think that has tended to politicize the debate so that people say, ‘Why are you picking on Social Security?’ And some of the positions have been very ideological and partisan.”

Social Security has “always been a charged issue, the third rail of American politics,” Bixby said. “People are now talking about it as the low-hanging fruit.”