The War Against Social Security
by Gary Boatwright, Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 06:33:54 AM EST
They Invested Years in Private Accounts: Conservatives who want to alter Social Security have long worked to nudge public opinion. Bush will likely advance the cause this week.
The Declaration of War
"It could be many years before the conditions are such that a radical reform of Social Security is possible," wrote Stuart Butler and Peter Germanis, Heritage Foundation analysts, in a 1983 article in the Cato Journal. "But then, as Lenin well knew, to be a successful revolutionary, one must also be patient and consistently plan for real reform."
That is partly because these groups have broadcast a consistent message: Social Security is financially unsustainable and will collapse after the baby boom generation retires. Although that is debatable, polls show that most Americans lack confidence in the program's future.
"It started as the third rail of politics, but over a period of time conservatives kept at it until [their assumptions] began to sound like common sense," said George Lakoff, an expert in political communication at UC Berkeley.
The steps they recommended were strikingly similar to the course Bush has taken: reassuring retirees that their benefits would not be cut and arguing that Social Security is financially unstable.
"Our reform strategy involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it," they wrote. "An economic education campaign ... must be undertaken to demonstrate the weaknesses of the current system."
What's more, they argued, "building a constituency for Social Security reform requires mobilizing the various coalitions that stand to benefit from the change.... The business community and financial institutions, in particular, would be an obvious element in the constituency."
That foreshadowed the course conservatives took through the 1980s and 1990s.
Now that he is pushing for Congress to act, Bush is tapping the community of long-standing advocates of private accounts. The White House regularly consults the think-tank experts who have been writing about Social Security for decades. The administration's point man on Social Security, Charles P. Blahous III, is former executive director of a business coalition formed to lobby for personal accounts.
The revolving door has swept a top Cato analyst into the upper echelons of Bush's apparatus for promoting the new policy: Andrew G. Biggs, who spent several years at Cato, now is associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration.
"You have extremely high expectations among conservatives that real change is going to take place," said Stephen Moore, an activist who backs overhauling Social Security. "Conservatives have waited 20 years for this alignment."
Tax Fears Help Bush's Plan Win Business Backing : Manufacturers, restaurateurs and small firms are lining up in favor of restructuring Social Security -- and averting higher payroll levies.
The War Chest
The War Chest has a broad funding base:
. . .
The coalition's budget "will be a lot larger than in 2002," when it spent $5 million promoting its viewpoint, he said.
Compass was launched in 2002 to promote ideas for restructuring the Social Security system but has been mostly dormant for two years. Bush's decision to move Social Security to the top of his action list has rejuvenated the group, said Derrick Max, who is coordinating the coalition's activities.
The restaurant association has been roused to action in part because the industry claims the largest U.S. workforce apart from government, said Rob Green, vice president of federal relations for the Washington-based group.
The Chamber of Commerce is part of the Axis of Evil.
The time for avoiding the shiboleth of class warfare is long past.
George Bush has declared war on Social Security. The time for quibbling over the details is long past. It's time to cut to the chase and talk plainly. We need to tell Americans that Bush is stealing your FICA payments. Your President is taking your hard earned FICA payments and giving them to billionaires. George Bush is taking your FICA payments and using it to give corporate welfare to greedy corporations.
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