Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Social Security reform: a tale of two polls
Written by: Beck

Reports of the early demise of Bush's plans for Social Security reform may well prove to be highly exaggerated. While the Washington Post was delighted to declare that, "Only 35 percent of Americans no say they approve of [Bush's] handling of the issue."

However, as Jon Henke points out, buried in the article is an eyebrow-raising tidbit:
But there's something very interesting buried deep in the polling data. Very interesting indeed. The public overwhelmingly disapproves of 1) the way Bush is handling Social Security (56% - 35%), and 2) "Bush's proposals on Social Security" (55% - 37%).

But the public also overwhelmingly supports — by a margin of 56% - 41% — "a plan in which people who chose to could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market".
In other words, despite Democratic attempts to thwart any and all change to Social Security--a move calculated only to thwart the plans of Bush and not based on any positive policy foundation--all they've achieved is trashing the specific plan as currently formulated and marketed to the masses. What they've failed to do is turn Americans against the general notion that Social Security as currently formulated suffers from numerous flaws and requires major overhaul.

Perhaps more interesting, research done by (liberal) John Zogby suggests that regardless of whether Bush's plan passes, the entire ongoing debate would seem to be beneficial to the Republican party. As reported by Hindrocket of Powerline:
Polls appear to show President Bush's Social Security reform proposal sinking like a stone, so I was a little surprised to see the normally left-leaning John Zogby warning that, even if the President's proposal for individual accounts fails, the issue may nevertheless spark a long-term realignment in favor of the Republican Party.

Zogby bases this conclusion not on the concept's popularity among young people, but on its appeal to the "investor class." He notes that in his polling, those who described themselves as members of the investor class favored President Bush by a margin of 61% to 39%, while those who described themselves as non-investors favored Kerry by 57% to 42%. The kicker: no fewer than 46% described themselves as investors.
My fear upon the initial kickoff of the campaign for Social Security reform and partial privitization was that if defeated, it would have much the same impact on the Republican party that the defeat of Hillary-care had on the Democratic party in the first half of Clinton's first term. The memorable result of that episode was, of course, the triumph of Newt Gingrich and the Republican revolution.

As the Republican party has moved from strength to strength, they continually risk setting themselves up for a countervailing Democratic revolution. These numbers from Zogby and the WaPo suggest that my fears may well prove groundless.

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John Beck

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