Feb 222005

President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security by transferring risk onto the nation’s elderly is proving a hard sell. Even administration officials and Republican congressional leaders “acknowledge that Bush’s plan has yet to gain traction.” A recent CNN/Gallup/USA Today survey of Americans showed 55 percent think the president’s plan is a bad idea. And a recent poll by the Washington Post shows barely one in four Americans believe the president’s claim that there’s a crisis. Without public support, conservatives have turned to dirty tricks to try to sway public opinion. But no amount of deceptive advertising can mask the fact that Americans don’t want this risky plan.

DIRTY TRICKSTERS BACK IN ACTION: The Swift Boat Veterans  who wreaked havoc on John Kerry’s presidential campaign with untruths, innuendo and ugly rumors  are back and ready to focus their tricks on the Social Security fight. The New York Times reports the right-wing lobbying group USA Next is planning to sink $10 million in commercials and other back-room tactics to hit the AARP. (“They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts,” said Charlie Jarvis, the group’s president. “We will be the dynamite that removes them.”) In an attempt to manipulate public opinion, USA Next is rounding up all the usual suspects from the Swift Boat campaign. They’ve hired Chris LaCivita, the former marine paid $30,000 during the campaign to advise the Swift Boat campaign on Kerry attacks. They’re looking to hire Rick Reed, a partner at the firm that put together attack ads for the Swift Boat group. Also back: Creative Response Concepts, the PR firm that backed the Swift Boat group, and Regenery Publishing, the group that published “Unfit for Command,” the screed against Kerry’s military service put out by one of the primary leaders of the Swift Boat vets. And Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo uncovered a link between USA Next and the United Seniors Association, a “soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals.”

ATTACKING THE AARP: The Swift Boat vet group is already starting the attack. The AARP, a group that looks out for the best interests of seniors, has come out against the Bush plan. A new ad posted on the American Spectator purports to show the “real” AARP agenda. The weird ad shows a photo of soldiers in Iraq with a big “X” through it next to one of two men kissing with a big green check. The group doesn’t even pretend to provide the rationale behind the ad; clicking on the “click here for details” merely brings you to USA Next’s home page, with nothing about either troops or gay marriage. Thus the ad exists just to spread the implication that AARP hates U.S. troops but loves gay marriage. (Thanks to DailyKos for finding the ad.)

“POOREST FACE MOST RISK ON SOCIAL SECURITY”: The Washington Post exposes the truth behind the Bush Social Security plan: “no group of Americans would be affected more…than those earning the least.” Today, Social Security is the largest or only source of retirement income for low-income workers. The program makes up more than half of retirement benefits for almost two-thirds of the nation’s seniors. Further, “it is the only source of income for 20 percent of retirees.” The Bush plan, which would transfer risk onto the individuals while cutting benefits, would be devastating to these seniors. E.J. Dionne points out the real agenda behind the Bush plan: “The real ‘crisis’ we face is created not by Social Security but by the administration’s unrelenting effort to lighten the tax burden on the wealthy, which, in turn, creates a fiscal mess that forces cuts in programs for poor kids and needy seniors alike.”

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