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Advice to the president

Mr. President, I believe your Social Security plan is headed for defeat in the Senate. You can't win 'em all, and on balance your batting average for pushing through your legislative initiatives is nothing less than remarkable, even for those that I'd prefer had not succeeded.

In short, no one would blame you for walking away from this one, but I know that's not your style. If you remain committed to pushing this plan home, let me offer you a bit of unsolicited advice. If the debate continues to be framed on abstractions such as "trust fund," "solvency," and "transition costs," the battle is over. You have lost.

In taking your case to the people, you need to condense it to simple, straightforward soundbites and talking points, and hammer then home over and over, relentlessly. Yes, I know that's cynical, and if I had my druthers the important debates of the day would not be reduced to such, but that is the reality of the times in which we live. We all know it, and there is no point in pretending otherwise.

So here's your selling point, Mr. President. Many Americans do not realize that the government spends our FICA contributions as fast as they come in. They receive detailed statements from Social Security every year or so that encourages them to believe all their withholdings are sitting in a named account somewhere, accruing interest, and waiting for the day they retire. You have to inform them of the ugly reality, and propose private accounts as an alternative.

"If it's in a private account, they can't spend it." "Don't let them spend our future." "Keep our contributions safe from government spendthrifts." You get the idea. You have people who can come up with far better than this. But do it. And then hammer the point home. Over and over and over.

If the battle can still be won, this is how it will happen. Good luck, Mr. President.


So in other words you're admitting that most people don't actually decide an issue based on it's relative merits and deficiencies, but rather through the use of soundbites that fail to convey all sides of the issue, just the sides relevant to your preference?
I'm not disagreeing - most people do decide that way it seems, but that doesn't mean we should endorse or encourage it.
The fact is that it's more important to me that people are educated on the issues.
The reality is that that the government as a whole spends more than it takes in. If FICA witholding was put into an untouchable "lockbox" it would just mean that our overall deficit would increase. Which means government would have to borrow money from someplace else.
Under the privatization model - especially the simplistic soundbited version - we'd have the same scenario.
So one could easily sound bite it this way as well.
"Hey seniors, you want the government to pay you interest on your FICA withholding, or some bank in Asia?" I don't think this is accurate either, but it's at least as accurate as your proposed soundites.

I know you know it's a complex issue, I just don't think we should be encouraging further "dumbing down" of anyone.
Nor do I think we should endorse pushing through anything using deceptive means.

Godzy, as I said, I wish it were otherwise.

But if Bush were to take the "high ground" on this issue, his plan would still be attacked with sound bites. As much as I bemoan the current state of political discourse, I can't recommend that my side undertake unilateral disarmament.

In recent years, the Republicans have had a lot more success in getting their message across through the MSM than was ever the case when I was a kid. Why? Because they finally, belatedly, learned the lessons of political reality in the television age.

Zilla, the simple fact is this: Bush has yet to espouse a defined plan and yet, with the efforts of Dems, AARP and labor groups pounding away at his (non) plan, it has sunk in the polls.

Why do you think that is?

Because we are a nation of sound bytes and, right now, the Dems are winning this one. It helps that many Republicans, weaned on that all-encompaasing teat of politics, revenues, doesn't want to lessen their ability to spend on their projects as well and have been reluctant advocates of change.

Were I to advise the Bushies, I would tell them to put together sound bytes from Clinton, Gore, et.al. telling us back in the second term of WJC that SS needed help now, including possibly some form of privatization. I would guess that many who today (hello, Harry!) are saying there is no crisis were agreeing with their president and veep in the late 1990s. Use those bytes as well vs. the same person talking out of the other side of his mouth today.

Once people realize this is less about their welfare and more about scoring one on Bush, they might just come around.

I for one do realize it's about my welfare - I just disagree with you Mal. But you are right that many people don't see this. That's really what I was complaining about. I hate the fact that we're a nation of soundbites.
I know we're all busy and this is the "information age" no time to go into details, just the high level.

I just find that a cop out a lot of people use - I don't mean you guys, I mean the people who do get by on soundbites, knowingly.

There's plenty of disinformation out there on both sides. I think it's shameful when either side manipulates the populace into a given opinion without giving all the facts, regardless of who's doing it.

I don't have a plan to change this, in fact odds are it can't be changed, human nature being what it is. We are really just a bunch of hairless monkeys (notice all the tv commercials playing on that theme latley? I saw one yesterday where the monkey stole a guys beer and proceeded to make him do tricks for it - classic it all plays into this theme).

Anyway, that's my two cents.. :)

Now toss me a peanut.

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