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Duck and Cover

Romney is coy on entitlement reform.

Oct 24, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 06 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Work on Romney’s plan is being supervised by his policy director, Lanhee Chen. The campaign has reached out to experts on entitlements, but Romney officials would not specify a date for the release of his proposal. Still, Romney’s campaign website promises that “Mitt will propose the specific steps he will take as president to ensure the long-term solvency of Medicare and Social Security.”

In his book, Romney chastised the media for letting politicians get away with vague rhetoric on entitlements. 

I admit to having been more than a little surprised that many of the serious challenges facing America today were not forcefully examined by the media during the 2008 primary and general election campaigns. It’s well understood by those who have studied the federal budget, for example, that our entitlement programs will eventually swamp us. But neither party’s candidates were pushed to explain what they would do about it. In one of our Republican primary debates, for example, we were asked, “Specifically, what would you do to fix Social Security?” Most responded by restating the problem—“Social Security is bankrupt”—rather than by addressing a solution; politicians have learned from experience that it is unwise to touch the “third rail of politics.” But why is that? Why is it that the media doesn’t hold accountable those who duck this critical issue? Why isn’t it instead that failure to address entitlement and Social Security reform is the “third rail?”

Good question. I suspect that journalists, at least with one candidate, won’t make the same mistake twice.

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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