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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Social Security: Son of That Dog Won’t Hunt

That pesky public. The more it hears about Bush’s proposal on Social Security, the less it seems to like it and the more it seems to reject the whole “ownership society” concept that Bush has attempted to tie into the proposal.
Consider these findings from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
1. After all of Bush’s crisis-mongering, only 17 percent of the public is willing to term Social Security’s financial situation a crisis.
2. After all of Bush’s stumping for his proposal in the last two months and all the coverage in the press, the percentage believing we should make some adjustments, but leave the “Social Security system basically as is” has risen from 39 to 50 percent, while the percent saying we should change the Social Security system “to allow people to invest some of their Social Security taxes in private accounts” has declined from 45 to 40 percent.
Similarly, over the last two months, Bush has not been able to push the number over 40 percent who think it is “a good idea….to change the Social Security system to allow workers to invest their Social Security contributions in the stock market?”, while the number thinking it’s a bad idea has remained steady at 50-51 percent.
Not only that, of those who think this change is a bad idea, 60 percent say their position is “completely firm and unlikely to change”. That’s just the reverse of the situation with those who think the change is a good idea, where 68 percent say they’re “open to changing their mind”.
3. How committed are people to the idea of private accounts? Four times as many give primary importance to keeping the system from running short of money (49 percent) than give that level of importance to creating investment accounts (12 percent).
4. How interested are people in the ownership society approach? By 61-32, the public says Congress should place the most emphasis on “providing guarantees for the future” in Social Security and health care, rather than “giving people more responsibility and personal control”.
5. How to save money in the Social Security system? Only two proposals tested by NBC/WSJ garnered majority support: limiting the benefits that are paid out to wealthy retirees (64 percent) and, intriguingly, gradually increasing the Social Security payroll tax (51 percent).
Guess those RNC talking points aren’t quite doing the job!