In Elizabeth Drew's excellent article in the most recent New York Review of Books, she examines the recent career of Newt Gingrich and discusses his book, Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract
with On America. She pays particular attention to his views on Social Security:
In the chapter "Social Security Prosperity," Gingrich gives the game away. Though Bush talks of his desire to set up private savings accounts as "partial privatization" of Social Security—a limited program allowing workers to put part of their Social Security payments into private accounts—Gingrich makes it clear that some influential conservatives want to completely privatize Social Security. He speaks of the supposed benefits of "shifting fundamentally all Social Security retirement benefits to the personal accounts over the long run." Among those who share this goal are Grover Norquist and some members of conservative think tanks, in particular the Cato Institute, which has long been arguing for privatization.
For now, Gingrich backs a plan for private accounts more ambitious than anything the administration has proposed. While Bush's plan would set aside 4 percent, or about a third of the income subject to Social Security taxes, for private accounts, Gingrich supports a proposal, already introduced in Congress, which would divert 6 percent, amounting to half of Social Security taxes, into such accounts. This bill is also backed by about thirty House Republicans. Since the goal of conservatives who share Gingrich's views is to end the present Social Security system, it's safe to assume that even if private accounts were begun on a limited basis, conservatives would come back with proposals to expand them over the years.
Since he's been talking about this kind of "reform" for years, we should connect Bush's ideas for Social Security "reform" with Newt Gingrich every chance we get.
Back in 1996 and 1998, after he challenged Clinton to shut down the
government, thereby helped Clinton get reelected and taking the momentum
away from the Gingrich Revolution, running against Newt Gingrich was
standard fare for Democrats at all levels. Through GoPAC, his
political action committee, he gave small donations to Republican candidates across the country (as well as his tapes and notebooks instructing
Republican to refer to Democrats as "weak" and "pathetic" and
Republicans as "strong" and "patriotic"). As Gingrich's favorability
ratings sunk to levels that have only been passed by Linda Tripp and
Osama bin Laden, plenty of Republican candidates probably wished they
had never taken those donations, because all over the country Democratic
campaigns were being urged by their pollsters to make Gingrich a campaign issue in whatever way they could. Even though it had nothing to do with state
government, many legislative campaigns attacked Republicans for being
followers of Newt Gingrich, the guy who wanted to destroy Social Security. And
at least in Michigan, it worked.
Now it's not clear to me that many voters really understood what the
hell Newt Gingrich was up to, they just knew they hated his guts. He
was like the negative stereotype that some conservatives have of
smarty-pants liberals; if Al Gore came across as the guy who thought he
was the smartest kid in the class, Newt Gingrich was the guy who walked
around ringing a bell and wearing a sandwich board that said "I'm the
smartest kid in the class: Neaahhh!" Add in the fact that he was talking about rolling back Social Security--as well as the fact that he left
his first wife when she was fighting cancer so he could take up with a
younger aide, but had the gall to wage jihad against Clinton for
getting a hummer in the Oval--and he appeared to have come straight from central
casting to play the roll of the smarmy politician that made people want to spit.
So, what's the half-life of somebody who was once almost as
politically toxic as Watergate-era Richard Nixon? I'm not sure, but I
hope somebody at the DNC is talking to some pollsters about testing whether associating Gingrich with Bush's schemes might be another slice
in the Democrats' attempt to kill Bush's plans by a thousand cuts. If
it would contribute to the distrust people have Bush's plans to tamper
with Social Security, we shouldn't miss the opportunity to say "George
W. Bush is trying to pass the same plan to destroy Social Security
that Newt Gingrich tried to pass 10 years ago. The American people didn't like
Newt Gingrich's plan then, and they shouldn't like it now."
Besides, I can't think of a more obnoxious prominent Republican during my
lifetime, and few things would give me such pleasure as once again making
him into the albatross around the neck of the Republican party and
everything they attempt to do.