By Chris Suellentrop
You may be surprised to learn that the president views Social Security reform as a philosophical question, the kind of groovy give-and-take subject that's appropriate for drug-induced dorm-room bull sessions. But understanding why he framed the subject that way is critical to understanding the impetus behind Social Security privatization. Opponents of personal Social Security accounts have been trying to knock down the president's plan—to the extent that he has one—by tackling it as a mathematical puzzle and carefully explaining that the numbers don't add up. "There's no Social Security crisis," is one version of this argument, explaining how relatively minor changes in benefits and taxation can preserve the system in its current form. The other is to poke holes in the arithmetic of privatization. Slate's founding editor, Michael Kinsley, went so far as to offer a logical proof of how privatization would fail to fix Social Security. But submitting the answers to a math test during a philosophy exam is a sure way to flunk.