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Generational warfare

Page 2 of 2 -- Second, transitioning to private accounts will cost approximately $2 trillion without doing anything to improve Social Security's long-term finances. Since the government is already running a record deficit, that extra money must come from cutting federal spending, raising taxes, or borrowing more. There's little room to cut spending -- unless they cut more programs like college aid. But after four years of slashing taxes, the president isn't likely to raise taxes for any reason. This leaves just one option: more borrowing and more debt for young Americans.

Worse still, Wehner's internal memo makes it clear that privatization won't solve the Social Security problem. In addition to trillions in transition costs, the president's plan will include drastic cuts in benefits for future retirees -- today's young people. Without these cuts, he writes, "we'll face serious economic risks."

Third, with no changes to the current system, workers can expect higher benefits from Social Security than from a system of private investment accounts, according to a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That means today's twenty-somethings will be better off when they retire even if nothing is done to "fix" Social Security.

Private investment accounts are a tempting idea for young people, and conservatives know it. But just like much of this administration's ideological agenda, support for privatization rests on fear mongering, flawed economic assumptions, and a willingness to put faith in "the market" above facts and ahead of fiscal responsibility.

Wehner says standing up for young workers is a "deeply conservative belief," but judging by this administration's record, that's code for "politically expedient." There's nothing "conservative" about launching a preemptive war in Iraq based on false assertions and letting young Americans do the fighting and dying. There's nothing "conservative" about reducing aid to needy students hoping to attend college or vastly increasing the deficit in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy, sticking young people with the bill.

This administration has demonstrated over and over its willingness to put ideological purity, political loyalty, and the profits of its corporate patrons above the broad public interest. Why should young people believe that its risky Social Security privatization scheme would be any different?

Ben Hubbard is campus programs director at the Center for American Progress. 

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