The emotional side of the Social Security arguments
Fred Vincy at Stone Court has an interesting article on how people's ideas about loss and gain are being played with in the Social Security debates. Which got me to thinking about listening to the Shrub blathering on about Social Security on NPR as I was driving home. I'll admit--their plan confuses me a little bit, which of course is the intention. But if I don't know economics, I do know a little something about rhetoric and that's what I found myself paying attention to.
The first thing that the Shrub made clear is that his message was aimed squarely at people my age. He said something about first starting your job in your mid-20s and how the money will be all gone, blah blah blah. I thought to myself, "That's probably pretty appealing to people who are my age and really are on their first job. Me--I've been working pretty steadily for more than a decade. And that's a decade's worth of my Social Security payments they are going to steal." So, it's a classist argument, which might be a weakness. There's a lot more people like me than people who partied through 6 years of college and only now are considering transistioning from living off Mom and Dad completely to their own job.
And that's their problem. No matter how they phrase it, most of the audience is hearing, I think at least, that everything they've paid into Social Security is gone now so kiss it goodbye. And we don't like that. But, being young, I still hear the message that was aimed at me and over and over again, the phrase that my young ear keeps grabbing at is "private accounts".
To someone my age, that sounds like a checking account. I shit you not, but the first thing that popped into my head was the thought, "Does this mean I'll be able to put my Social Security into my savings account? I hope so, 'cause that's probably safer than the stocks Shrubby Boy has in mind. And then I sort of idly and irresponsibly thought about how I would spend my money if I managed to keep Social Security payments in every check. When you're 27 years old, it's really fucking hard to think about retirement. Not that I'm hugely irresponsible, but I keep thinking about improvements around the house and things like that. I'm not going to start drawing on Social Security for almost 40 years, and that just seems too far off to worry about.
I guarantee you that is what they are hoping will win young people over. Most people pay way less attention to the news than I do, so if I had an idle thought about not having to make Social Security payments every month, then the number of people who are hearing nothing more than 1) You'll never see your money in the future so you are wasting it and 2) We will let you have it now to spend it on whatever you'd like must be in the legions.
Luckily, I know that the Shrub has never exerted an ounce of effort on behalf of anyone but the very wealthy, so I know that whatever the details of the plan, the end result will not be that I can tuck my money into a locally owned bank or spend it on home improvements or do anything that will help keep money in my middle-class community or help out local business or anything like that. In fact, from what I can tell, the only real purpose of this is to wildly inflate the price of stocks so that the wealthy can all cash in when stocks hit the roof, knowing that they will be ahead of the curve on the crash because there's no way that Social Security money will do anything but sit in the accounts it's initially invested in. Seems like a one-time shot to me, but I guess if that happens, big stock holders won't care because they will have made more money than God in a one-time deal and will never have to worry about it again.