Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Social Insecurity Complex: A Tough Sell

What was it Aesop said about fooling all of the people some of the time? Or some of the people all of the time? Or was it about fooling all the time to some people? Or was it ...

Hell, whatever it was, let's pretend it's applicable to Dubya's ongoing crusade to "fix" Social Security by potentially spending trillions on "personal accounts" that, in turn, would effectively remove the whole "security" part from Social Security. (for a view on Social Security that differs from my leftist ranting on this subject, you might check out From the Bleachers).

Thankfully, the Social Security Shell Game is proving to be a tougher sell than peddling a war without hard evidence of provocation (where is David Frum when you need him? How 'bout Social Security getting its own axis of evil designation?)

A recent poll conducted by The Washington Post indicates the White House faces an uphill task of convincing a bah-bah public.

From the paper:

"Many anxious GOP legislators say they have received clear caution signals from constituents on trips home, and several polls reflect the headwind Bush is facing. Significantly, a recent Washington Post poll, conducted in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, showed that personal accounts win majority support from voters, but that support drops well below 50 percent when people learn details.

"These details include the long-term cost of the change, which the White House acknowledges is in the trillions of dollars; the risk to people who choose the investment option; and the fact that personal accounts do not extend the solvency of Social Security unless they are paired with benefit cuts or tax increases in the traditional program."

The hurdles continue to mount. The Moderate Voice's Joe Gandelman points to a recent USA Today/CNN poll revealing that only one of three Americans approves of Dubya's handling of the Social Security question.

"So the question becomes whether between now and mid-term elections there will be some genuine movement on the part of both parties to come up with a compromise on Social Security," Joe writes. "Or, will there be no action -- leading to the issue emerging as a wedge issue in the mid-terms?"

The way things are going, however, this could be one wedge issue without much resonance for either party. Admittedly, the Democrats are whistling past the graveyard and acting outrageously irresponsible with the nothing-to-see-here-now-move-along approach to the impending fiscal crisis. But damn, that surely doesn't excuse the Republicans' sad revolution to transform Social Security into an entirely different beast.

Voters aren't particularly adept at thinking long-term in the first place, and so the folks most inclined to be whipped up by the issue are those fearing a short-term drop in Social Security benefits. As for the younger voters who ostensibly see the long-term crisis ... well, the Bush Administration has been as seductive as a prom date with poison ivy. Young America hasn't yet embraced the idea of killing something in order to save it.

And more and more Republican lawmakers are getting cold feet after having actually heard from their constituents back home. As The New York Times reported, leading GOP Senators Charles Grassley of Iowa and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania acknowledge that selling Social Security reform has gone as smoothly as a new Red Lobster in Tel-Aviv.

"Mr. Grassley, whose position as Senate finance chairman makes him the linchpin of any Social Security deal, said he still intended to negotiate a compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But he warned that lawmakers would not act unless there was pressure from voters, and he said voters would not put pressure on Congress unless the president persuaded them that private accounts are necessary.

"'I think 90 percent of the lifting is with the president,' he said. Mr. Grassley said, when asked if he was reaching out to Democrats, 'That process is starting, but it's starting very slow because too many Republicans and Democrats - how would you say it? - don't have the confidence that this issue is ever going to come up.'

"Mr. Santorum complained that he was dogged all week by opponents of the White House plan who dominated news coverage. Mr. Santorum, who is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership and chairman of the subcommittee on Social Security, was heckled by college students - the very audience the Bush administration was counting on - and peppered with questions from retirees.

"'Clearly the other side is better organized,' Mr. Santorum said. 'They got people to all these events. They had seniors lined up to ask questions, they had staff people running up passing them notes.'"

Of course, the Santorum supporters who showed for their guy had some challenges trying to stay on message. Crooks and Liars offers up a CNN clip of one such rally that found the Santorum faithful chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Social Security's got to go!"

With friends like these ... Any good reader of comic books knows that you tear off the mask and reveal your evil mug only after you have triumphed over good. Timing is everything, whether it's stand-up comedy or eliminating the final vestiges of New Deal socialism.


In our ongoing commitment to elucidate the critical Social Security debate, we now humbly direct you to this fine breakdown of arguments in The Washington Post.


At 7:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dubya’s plan may ultimately prove ineffective, but what else would we expect? At least he’s trying. Like you say, the fact that the Dems are ignoring the issue is nauseating. And you’d think this would be the exact type of issue they’d love, since it’s a chance to tell us stoopid people how to live our lives (oops, forgot I on was on the Left Blog. please don't ban me).
Seems like the perfect time to employ one of my favorite phrases: We wouldn’t be in this mess if we were all Libertarians.

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Tim Chapman said...

Chase, thanks for linking to me in your post.

I have a problem with the way the MSM has been portraying these town hall meetings. Absolutely there are people who attend that are against the proposal. In fact, Moveon and others are targeting these meetings with there members. But they are always in the minority - but at the same time they are the loud ones.

I attended one in Pittsburgh a while back and you can read my observations here:

Selling SS at home

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Tim Chapman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Post a Comment

<< Home