The Breakfast Table

The Helicopter Solution

Dear Jodie,

I agree that Clinton’s Universal Savings Account, or whatever it’s called, is a fairly bad idea, for the reasons you state. But there’s a funny thing about the opposition. Prior to Clinton’s speech, the GOP was atwitter with plans to use the budget surplus to fund individual accounts. Now Clinton suggests his own individual accounts, the only difference being that his are smaller and more beneficial to the poor and middle class, whereas the conservative versions helped mainly the rich. Now, suddenly, the GOP has discovered the dangers of funding a new entitlement with a temporary source. Well, if this is the only way to turn Republicans against individual accounts, I’m all for it.

By the way, I don’t find Reischauer and Aaron boring. At the Social Security conference in December–you were there, right?–Aaron sat on the panel that debated individual accounts. I thought beforehand he might have been outnumbered, as he had to go against an American Enterprise fellow and the Cato Institute’s Jose Pinera, who set up Chile’s program under Pinochet. (The plan, I think involves having seniors set up their own accounts, and then when the accounts run out of money they are dropped out of helicopters over the Pacific Ocean). Anyway, Aaron just laid them all to waste. He was so good it wouldn’t have mattered if he had been up against the entire Heritage Foundation, Cato, and the Chilean Army. It was a beautiful sight.

Our readers should know that in the middle of writing this letter, I was informed that this is the end! I don’t want to end on such a sonorous, wonky note. I realize now that I never got the chance to ask you what you’re going to do at U.S. News. (Edit Mort Zuckerman’s column, maybe? Those are so fresh and original!) You don’t have to reply to the Zuckerman part–none of us should have to be honest about our bosses. Talk to you later.