The blogosphere’s been all atwitter for the past few days, asking whether Senator McCain is a “flip-flopper” when it comes to his position on Social Security. (I first caught on through Len Burman’s post on the TaxVox blog.) But if one really listens to what McCain’s said, and who he thinks he’s saying it to, I don’t think it sounds like flip-flopping at all. As example, from today’s ABC News blog (my emphasis added):
“In any negotiation that I might have, when I go in, my position will be that I am opposed to raising taxes. But we have to work together to save Social Security,” McCain said at a fundraiser Wednesday evening in Kansas City.
To his “conservative base,” McCain is pledging that his (starting) position is that he does not want any tax increases. To his wise policy advisors and his “moderate base” (those who support him as the “maverick” on fiscal policy–who would like to believe that deep down he’s still that same John McCain who voted against the Bush tax cuts because of their fiscal irresponsibility), he reassures them that he knows that he can’t stand firm on his starting position on “no new Social Security taxes” if as President (versus someone just campaigning to be President) he expects to work with a Democratic Congress and actually accomplish something.
I have faith that a similar phenomenon is going on with the Obama campaign and their “no benefit cuts” position on Social Security. It’s not an identical phenomenon though, because a President Obama would expect to be working with a Democratic Congress as well, so there’s a bit more danger of things staying “off the table.”