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Where’s Your Plan?
The partisan leaders of the Democrat party have utterly failed to make opposition to personal retirement accounts a winning issue.
By Web Team on October 14, 2002
The 2002 mid-term elections take place in less than three weeks. And it appears the “Big Lie” strategy of the Liberals on Social Security has not worked. The partisan leaders of the Democrat party have utterly failed to make opposition to personal retirement accounts a winning issue.
Make no mistake; they have tried to demagogue on Social Security. Millions of dollars have been spent spreading lies and half-truths through the airwaves and in the mail. They have even stooped to a highly controversial internet ad that shows a cartoon version of President Bush pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair down a cliff. Yet, in the races where Social Security has managed to emerge as a defining issue, it is the supporter of personal retirement accounts who currently holds the advantage. Most notably, in North Carolina, former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles is spending $750,000 per week on negative ads attacking his opponent, Elizabeth Dole, for her strong support of personal retirement accounts. Thus far, Bowles remains far behind in the polls.
Partisan Democrat strategists have to be scratching their heads in disbelief. After all, the stock market collapse, in a shallow political sense, has not bolstered the case for personal retirement accounts. As the Democrats have tried to do, the collapse of Enron and WorldCom and Tyco makes it easy to spread half-truths about how people would be “risking” their retirement security if they were allowed to open up a personal retirement account. Everyone’s polling – on both sides – shows that it takes more than a sixty second ad to ease the fears of key voting blocks (senior citizens) about how personal retirement accounts would work.
At this point, the political geniuses over at the Democratic National Committee are probably telling their bosses, “It’s Iraq Stupid.” The talk of war has pushed all other issues off the table, so it is not the fault of the political strategists. The political people are right about one thing. It’s not their fault. But the War with Iraq is not to blame. It is the fault of the political people’s bosses – the elected leaders of the Democrat party who have chosen to offer the voters nothing but criticism. The voters want to see a plan. The voters want details, and Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt have refused to provide any specifics about how to save Social Security from bankruptcy. And at the moment, they are paying a well-deserved price for their lack of candor.
The American voter has been telling pollsters for years that they understand the Social Security system is going bankrupt. A critical subset of voters – senior citizens – has consistently confirmed that they too recognize Social Security’s long-term fiscal problems. Seniors have also told pollsters that they believe this is somebody else’s problem. So, pollsters on both sides of the aisle have convinced politicians that it is easy to scare senior citizens with scare talk of how “risky” personal retirement accounts threaten seniors’ own Social Security checks.
And thus emerges the grand 2002 strategy of the Democrat party to regain control of Congress.
Attack the president’s plan to save Social Security. His plan allows workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax into a personal retirement account that the worker owns and controls. Tell seniors over and over again that the President and Republicans want to privatize Social Security and will risk your retirement security on the stock market.
As it turns out, there might just be a HUGE flaw in the strategy. The collapse of the stock market, the related corporate scandals and the economic slowdown have caused voters to reassess what their leaders are telling them. There appears to be a new political premium on candor – voters want specific, credible economic solutions. And, that’s the last thing Tom Daschle or Dick Gephardt have provided.
Go ahead and attack personal retirement accounts – the voters are listening – but you better have a specific credible plan of your own to save the system. Otherwise, the voters tune your attacks out as just another cynical ploy to win an election. Neither Gephardt, Daschle nor Gore have offered even the slightest level detail of how they would solve the massive fiscal crisis looming over the Social Security system. In fact, Gephardt tried to force a vote this year on the President’s Social Security plan – yet Gephardt did not even have one of his own.
Make no mistake about it the cynical political strategists still have three weeks left to scare senior citizens. The lies will become more outrageous and more clandestine. Seniors will get deluged with mail and recorded messages on their answering machines. While millions have already been spent, countless millions more are still to be devoted to scaring senior citizens. But, for those of us who support personal retirement accounts and view this election cycle as a watershed event, we have a chance to emerge victorious and deservedly so. We have a plan, and the other side was too scared and too cynical to present one of their own. They deserve to lose.