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Important Framing Notes

As Mark Kleiman says it just won't do to allow the term "social security reform" to go uncontested in the discourse as a denotation of whatever it is Bush winds up proposing. He likes "Social Insecurity plan." Fair enough. My column today used another framing device that I think is good and other people should take up -- "forced savings," not "private accounts." It's the same thing in the real world, of course, but a "private account" sounds like something I'd like, while "forced savings" sounds pretty dodgy. Other suggestions for other elements of this debate? I think we need a suitably dismissive set of terms for various aspects of the long-term economic forecasts.

December 14, 2004 | Permalink


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» The Social Security Debate from The Process
So far I'm finding the debate between the left and the right on Social Security reform to be bizarre. Paul Krugman and Kevin Drum are good representatives for the argument from the left: this is a false crisis, as Social... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 15, 2004 7:50:47 AM

» Framing and Not Framing from JunkieWire - The Joe Hill Dispatch journal of news for political junkies.
It's been depressing to see how little the left blogosphere has understood George Lakoff's concept of frames. Part of this... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 2:58:24 PM

» Framing and Not Framing from JunkieWire - The Joe Hill Dispatch journal of news for political junkies.
It's been depressing to see how little the left blogosphere has understood George Lakoff's concept of frames. Part of this... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 3:00:36 PM

» Framing and Not Framing from JunkieWire - The Joe Hill Dispatch journal of news for political junkies.
It's been depressing to see how little the left blogosphere has understood George Lakoff's concept of frames. Part of this... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 16, 2004 3:01:03 PM

» Social Security: There IS NO Crisis from RANDOM THOUGHTS on Politics
A few days ago, I found a Matt Yglesias post with an active and thoughtful comment thread on the subject of framing the debate on social security. The emphasis wasn't so much about framing the issue as it was what [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 17, 2004 4:40:49 PM


"social insecurity plan" is too long and too cute. forced savings is better.

as for the projections, "chicken little" is a pretty well-worn phrase, but I think it'd work if hit hard enough.

framing this as a handout to the amorphous concept of "wall street" also seems like a good idea.

Posted by: anonymous coward | Dec 14, 2004 10:56:31 PM

What's wrong with the time-honored ('It's a Wonderful Life') American mistrust of bankers?

It's 'commericialization', not 'privatization'.

Mario Gabelli, or Scudder, or American Century, or somebody, will be holding your money, and charging you a fee to hold it.

What's the annual fee on SS?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Dec 14, 2004 10:58:01 PM

I prefer "a mandatory, government-run 401k", from a comment in Kevin Drum's blog. It's honest.

Posted by: bill arnold | Dec 14, 2004 10:59:30 PM

Actually, "forced savings" sounds like something a citizenry - notorious for over spending, abusing credit cards and not saving particularly that much - could stand to do for at least a little while.

How about "cheating towards Dow Jones 36,000."

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Dec 14, 2004 11:04:22 PM

I will think on this tomorrow. You're correct...we need some appropriately dismissive terms for Bush's social security scam.

Posted by: Debi | Dec 14, 2004 11:22:54 PM

People like short and sweet rhetoric. I think "forced savings" would have a weird appeal to some people, especially if they knew that it would come from money they were already giving to the government. "I wish someone would force me to save money!" is something I can picture a lot of people saying.

"Social Insecurity" is a good start.

Posted by: keep plugging away | Dec 14, 2004 11:23:49 PM

Social Insecurity works pretty well for me.

I also like Wall Street Takeover of Social Security

Posted by: Petey | Dec 14, 2004 11:28:10 PM

I like "gutting Social Security".

Posted by: Blogtheist | Dec 14, 2004 11:38:23 PM

- Rapacious Plundering of Social Security.
- The Enron-izing of our Pension Plan
- Throwing Granny to the Wolves

And let's not forget that the Republicans are determined to avoid the word "Privitization". Let's not let them avoid it.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 14, 2004 11:42:14 PM

I think "forced savings" would have a weird appeal to some people, especially if they knew that it would come from money they were already giving to the government

Since when does the gubmint get to tell me what to do?! All you have to do to look better than a "forced" plan is offer up a modest, optional investment option on top of social security (I know, these already exist). Then no one's forcing your hand... you have more freedom. And almost everyone likes freedom.

How about "forced investment"? or, in a longer formulation, "forcing Americans to bet their retirement on wall street"?

Posted by: anonymous coward | Dec 14, 2004 11:53:15 PM

Use of the term "forced savings" could backfire -- that is essentially what Social Security is now. No one has a choice in paying the payroll tax. My suggestion and preference is to frame this as a "wall street windfall" or merely for what it is ... they want to do away with Social Security. They've been dreaming about this opportunity for 40+ years and it is now that they see a window of opportunity. We can't let them portray it as anything other than a direct and concerted effort to end the program.

Posted by: Chad M Schuldt | Dec 14, 2004 11:57:29 PM

Wall Street Subsidies

Forced Gambling
Forced Investing

Posted by: cleek | Dec 15, 2004 12:07:32 AM

We should be turning your money over on this one.

The debate should be framed around the turning your money over to the fat-cat donors on Wall Street, which is the phrase Reed is already good. Do not use Bush's name; after all, Bush is popular.

I like the symmetry of Social Insecurity plan.

Bush's borrowing strategy should be called Enron-style fuzzy math.

A separate component of the messaging strategy must involve spreading uncertainty about the need for "reform". When Gore challenged Bush on the number of uninsured, Bush's response was "a lot of those uninsured people are young and healthy, so they don't think they need to buy insurance". This implies that we shouldn't feel quite so bad about the number of uninsured.

Therefore, business moderate Democrats should say Wall Street usually deals with hundreds of millions of dollars at a time. They'd have trouble keeping up with everyone's individual account. This will help sow doubt that Wall Street can even manage all of the accounts.

Likewise, the point about fees needs to be made: Wall Street would make a bigger commission than the government does. That takes your money money out of your pocket.

Hmmm ... these last two are not quite right. Maybe someone can condense these phrases by a few words. But the point exists: even as it stands, a number of financial services firms are unsure whether or not managing millions of individual accounts makes any sense for them. We should be getting spokespeople from sympathetic firms up there on this one.

And Jon Corzine should be on CNN, CNNHN, CNNfN, CNBC, MSNBC, Neil Cavuto's show ... anything that has a stock ticker underneath it, saying what a bad idea this is and how Wall Street wouldn't be able to work it out. It's not like he needs to worry about running for Governor of New Jersey, right?

Posted by: niq | Dec 15, 2004 12:17:04 AM

I like "forced speculation" above "forced savings."

More people like saving than speculating.


Posted by: keef | Dec 15, 2004 12:18:11 AM

Keef's got the right idea. Bush wants to turn our retirement over to Wall Street. Using that phrase leads naturally to all sorts of talk about Enron, speculation, fat commissions for the bankers -- all of it sounds bad and all of it is true.

Posted by: charlie | Dec 15, 2004 12:40:38 AM

Please read, if you haven't already, this morning's Washington Post article describing how the voting "foul-ups appeared particularly acute in Democratic-leaning districts, according to interviews with voters, poll workers, election observers and election board and party officials, as well as an examination of precinct voting patterns in several cities."

more: www.politicalthought.net

or: WP

For those of you with weak hearts, try to control your rage as you read this...

Posted by: Igor | Dec 15, 2004 12:55:51 AM

Enronization of social security...

Demonize wall street. Run commercials with clips of Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers, Michael Milkin and other crooks doing the perp walk. Run cumulative totals of their lost investors' money chinging away in the foreground as a big yacht sails away into the sunset with their money.

Hell, throw in Brian Geccko declaring that greed is good...

Posted by: Armasgettin' | Dec 15, 2004 1:33:26 AM

I second keef.

The gist of the current proposal is that the government forces citizens to make leveraged investments: it borrows on our behalf -- and we will be responsible for that debt -- so we can invest.

Another thing is that 2% of salary is actually a puny amount. I am contributing 5% of my salary to my retirement plan and the empoyer another 5% and my rough projection is that I will have similar income from the private plan and Social Security -- especially if I live longer, and I will see my private annuity going down in value, and SS going up.

There is no way that people can secure meaningful supplement to their retirement income by investing 5 times less that I do in my private plan. They have a chance, but rather small. And for an average Joe the amount will be too puny to get, say, investment advise (of positive quality, that is).

Posted by: piotr | Dec 15, 2004 1:35:52 AM

Get a hold of those audio tapes with the Enron traders in California laughing about screwing Granny out of her social security check as they jack electricty prices into the stratosphere.

Message: Th're baaack...

Posted by: Armasgettin' | Dec 15, 2004 1:36:59 AM

Generally speaking, I think we'd be better off if we just stopped using the word "reform" altogether; It just means change, after all, and saying "I'm in favor of "X" change!" more obviously requires you to explain WHY you think your proposed change is an improvement.

Igor, so Democratic elections officials are incompetent? That's not news. But, yes, I suppose you should be angry at them.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Dec 15, 2004 5:44:07 AM

The term that I prefer to use at my blog is Social Security looting "reform"

Posted by: fester | Dec 15, 2004 6:42:50 AM

The key point is that there will be no more security in Social Security. So, "social insecurity" is good. Or perhaps "gambling with your retirement."

There's a strong element of the shell game at play here too.

Posted by: Dave | Dec 15, 2004 7:05:58 AM

Wall Street Welfare

Posted by: Benny | Dec 15, 2004 7:22:53 AM

Forget the coy stuff: "Enronization," "forced savings," "commercialization," etc. It's all just poo-poo.

Cut to the chase, folks: It's the destruction of Social Security.

Posted by: Blue Iris | Dec 15, 2004 7:23:40 AM

Not necessarilly; The destruction of the Social Security Program perhaps.

Don't confuse the program with the security, just because "security" is part of the program's name.

Anyway, this notion of extrapolating out SS for twenty, thirty, fifty years, is just insane. We're getting close to being able to treat aging as a medical problem, and cure it! Do you REALLY think that it's going to make sense a quarter century from now, for people to retire at 65, funded by intergenerational transfers, when they've got another half century of good health ahead of them? Why should healthy people be promised subsidized retirements?

The failure to take into account medical progress in this context is just incredible.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Dec 15, 2004 7:46:52 AM

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