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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Can Bush Salvage Political Gains Even if Social Security Reform Fails?

The Baltimore Sun makes a good point. Even if Bush loses the battle over Social Security reform, he may be able to salvage some political gain:

Bush could draw voters through Social Security debate - GOP hopes to attract young, minorities even if plan flops, By Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Baltimore Sun: President Bush's drive to overhaul Social Security is foundering on Capitol Hill and sinking in public opinion polls. But … Bush is positioning himself to win - even if he loses. Bush is increasingly targeting his Social Security push to minorities and younger people - groups that disproportionately vote Democratic - in efforts to reap electoral benefits for Republicans even if he ultimately fails to enact his proposal. … Demographic data give Bush reason to hope that his Social Security push could have a substantial upside for his party in future elections. Hispanics and blacks are more heavily reliant on Social Security income in their retirement, tend to hold lower-paying jobs without employer-sponsored pensions, and own fewer assets than their white counterparts, researchers say. Like young people … minority voters are disproportionately supportive of the concept of expanding ownership. …

But, from the same article:

Some analysts who study minority voters say Bush's arguments are not resonating with them … "This whole campaign of his has been an utter flop. ... with African-Americans ..." said David A. Bositis, senior researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, who specializes in black voters and their attitudes. Early in his Social Security roadshow, Bush argued that creating private accounts that could be inherited would especially benefit African-Americans because of the shorter life expectancy for black men. Research shows, however, that the disparity in life span comes mostly from higher infant mortality and homicide rates of young black men, and that there is little difference between the life expectancy of black and white retirees. Many blacks found Bush's argument "insulting," said Rep. Kendrick B. Meek, a Florida Democrat who is leading his party's efforts to turn young people against the Bush plan. "In the past when [Republicans have] reached out to groups of color and young people, it's always been for political reasons, and this time it seems like it's no different," Meek said.

I've discussed whether the Bush-Pozen proposal is a better deal for younger workers here, so perhaps this demographic will see through the smoke and mirrors as well.

UPDATE: Here is part of Bush's press conference today. There appears to be an attempt to gain precisely the type of political advantage discussed in the article:

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. Sir, most Democrats continue to refuse to negotiate with you on Social Security until you take payroll tax-funded personal accounts off the table. Would you insist on these accounts if it means no deal on Social Security?

THE PRESIDENT: … except you got a President who's willing to talk about the issue -- and a President who, by the way, is going to keep talking about the issue until we get people to the table. I repeat to you, Keith, the Social Security issue is a really important issue for an upcoming generation. I mean, imagine realizing that we got a problem and then not doing anything about it, and watching a young generation get taxed, perhaps by as much as a payroll tax of 18 percent. How would that make somebody feel? That we shirked our duty, that we weren't responsible citizens…the President has got to push. He's got to keep leading. … One thing is for certain: The party that I represent is leading. … And so I think as people make their calculations, that I think the American people are going to end up saying to those who have been willing to lead on the issue and talk about the issue and be constructive on the issue, thanks for what you're doing and we'll send you back up there with our vote, because that's the kind of spirit we like...

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    Posted by on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 10:31 AM in Economics, Politics, Social Security | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (0)


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