A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of a book about Gingrich and Clinton in preparation for Newt Gingrich's visit to Scripps College. The book is titled, The Pact: Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the Rivalry That Defined A Generation, and finds, among other fascinating things, that in 1997, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich had formed a political alliance to marshal reform of Social Security and Medicare, but were derailed due to the philandering of Bill Clinton.
The author of the book, Steven M. Gillon, has written a summary of his book here and for those that are interested, there's an audio interview with him and John J. Miller of National Review's Between the Covers, accessible here.
In any event, here's the takeaway from the efforts to reform Social Security, from Gillon's review:
The actuarial steps needed to shore up Social Security and Medicare were straightforward and, with government coffers beginning at last to overflow with revenue, easier to achieve than at any time in the recent past. “We always knew that finding common ground on Social Security wasn’t terribly difficult from a policy standpoint,” reflected Bruce Reed, the president’s chief domestic policy advisor. “The policy differences were always the easiest to bridge.” There was a growing consensus on both sides of the aisle in favor of having Social Security tap into the stock market to increase the rate of return on retirement funds. However, difficult questions remained unanswered: Who would manage the money, individuals or the government? Would private accounts replace checks guaranteed by the government, or would they simply be an add-on to the existing system? Politics, not economics, presented the biggest obstacle. Any long-term solution to solving Social Security required increasing the age of eligibility and changing the formula used to calculate the annual cost of living increase (COLA)—two steps guaranteed to arouse powerful opposition from across the political spectrum.Social Security will most likely go bankrupt in the next thirty years, if not sooner, and our generation will be left with the pieces after having paid into that generational Ponzi Scheme. It is not too late to reform this beast before too long. Republicans would do well to use this issue to get the youth vote, increasingly dissatisfied with Barack Obama.