Advancing a Free Society

INFOGRAPHIC: A Winning Coalition for Social Security Reform

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This morning, in the article, “Parties Hold Their Fire on Social Security,” POLITICO reports on how the White House and fiscal conservatives in the Democratic congressional leadership have now taken public positions that Social Security should be excluded from deficit and debt reduction negotiations and placed on a “parallel track.” For their part, the Republicans are remaining as quiet as possible on the issue.

As I read the piece, the same, old question kept running through my head: Why is it so hard to reform Social Security?

A very short answer to that question is that it is hard to get the votes. It’s an answer that begs a lot of questions, but it’s not a bad place to start.

I put together a graphic and explanatory text to show this simple truth. The graphic represents an important roll call vote on Social Security reform in the U.S. House in 1983, when Congress and President Reagan did manage to shore up the finances of the Social Security system, at least temporarily.

(click on the graphic for a larger version)

AaFS Frisby SSA Winning Coalition INFOGRAPHIC 030111

The main point is this: it is difficult to build a coalition for Social Security reform because it not only requires bipartisan support, it requires pan-ideological support.

Later this week, I’ll share another graphic that shows why getting the votes for Social Security reform, if it is placed on a parallel track, will probably be even more difficult in the current, 112th Congress than it was in 1983.