Thank you, Monica Lewinsky!
The idea that "something must be done" was widespread and many expected that Clinton would follow up his capitulation to Republicans on welfare with a deal on Social Security. But he didn’t, thanks to the zaftig young woman in a blue dress who caught his eye in 1995.
We have this on the authority of high-ranking members of the Clinton Treasury who gathered in Harvard in the summer of 2001 to mull over the lessons of the 1990s. At that conclave it was revealed that on Clinton’s orders a top secret White House working party had been established to study in detail the basis for a bipartisan policy on Social Security that would splice individual accounts into the program. Such was the delicacy of this exercise that meetings of the group were flagged under the innocent rubric "Special Issues" on the White House agenda. ....
The "Special Issues" secret team was set up by then-Deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers (later elevated to Treasury Secretary and now President of Harvard) and Gene Sperling, the head of the Council of Economic Advisers. The task of the Special Issues group was to find an installment of privatization that could reconcile realistic Republicans and Democrats, and be sold as still honoring most existing entitlements. ...
Nevertheless, under Summers’ guidance, the secret team pushed forward. There were high hopes that the President would embrace what had by now had become a detailed blueprint: "The working group’s estimates were at the level of detail that it was determined how many digits an ID number would have to be for each fund and how many key strokes would therefore be required to enter all of the ID numbers each year."
Clinton was kept up to date with briefings every few weeks and in July 1998 attended one of the "Special Issues" meetings himself. But in that same month he was served with a grand jury subpoena. A month later he finally acknowledged a sexual relationship with Monica.
By the end of 1998 the secret team concluded with heavy hearts that the escalating Lewinsky affair might well doom all their efforts. The President was desirous to be seen doing something dramatic for Social Security, but not anything risky. It could be controversial, but controversial in the direction of doing more for the program, not endangering it. As one team member put it this summer in the Harvard conclave: "Toward the end of 1998, as the possibility that the President would be impeached came clearly into view, the policy dynamic of the Social Security debate changed dramatically and it became clear to the White House that this was not the time to take risks on the scale that would be necessary to achieve a deal on an issue as contentious as Social Security reform."
Clinton was so desperate for an approach that would prove popular that he was even prepared to disappoint Wall Street. "The President decided to follow a strategy of trying to unite the Democrats around a plan that would strengthen Social Security by transferring budget surpluses to Social Security and investing a portion in equities." ...
Under the lash of the Lewinsky crisis, a President had issued a full-throated endorsement of the Social Security system. It was a terrible blow to a spectrum of opinion that stretched from the Cato Institute and Third Millennium to many New Democrats, including Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has proclaimed the need for individual accounts in the name of "choice".
So, thank you Monica Lewinsky! You get massive good karma points!