I think with the level of mistrust people have about the ability of the government to function in any coherent way, just leaving SS totally out of the conversation is not wise. Look, the democrats were basically swept into power last year and have proven themselves to be sternly-worded memo generating machines without many concrete accomplishments.
Frankly, if Harry Reid, flanked by Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein and Joe Lieberman stood in front of a podium and stated flatly that social security is not in crisis, not in trouble and needs no further tinkering, I would be worried.
I think when people have fears, rational or not, you have to actually address those fears rather than tell them it's all ok and now let's talk about something else.
There's a good argument to be made that we should focus on medicare instead. And that is certainly hard to refute. But I'm not aware that any other candidate has addressed this in any real way.
I've said this before and was roundly corrected on this site, but there are many, many (particularly young) people out there who have no faith that social security will be there in any meaningful way when they retire. You can argue that these people have been duped by the right wing wehrmacht (and you may even be correct in this assertion) but that does not change the mindset. If you view this arguably duped portion of the population as his target audience, it doesn't seem so bad.
He has basically three ways he can attack this issue: 1) Ignore it completely; 2) "You have been duped by the right wing and here are the numbers to prove it" or 3) "You are concerned about social security? OK, then, let's take care of the problem."
I would argue that the third strategy has a better chance of succeeding for two reasons. First, it allows him to bring it up and thereby get people interested in him, while keeping the volume down a bit, which is Barack Obama's brand. Second, outside of a handful of dedicated numbers-crunchers and political junkies, people just don't believe that Social Security is water-tight. And third, if he does make it to the general election, this becomes a campaign issue and his opponent will either have to cede this point to Obama or take one of about three different (and widely unpopular) positions on Social Security.
I understand the concern expressed on this website, but I don't think he could be any clearer about being opposed to privitization.
"Which of the following do you think best describes the financial situation of Social Security today? It is in crisis. It is in serious trouble, but not in crisis. It is in some trouble. OR, It is not really in trouble at all."
Serious trouble 36%
Some trouble 26%
Not in trouble 5%
Amen. I don't see anything wrong with making sure this program remains solvent. When my wife and I discuss our retirement, we always begin with the premise that Social Security will not exist. I hope we're wrong, but it's really the safest way to proceed.