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Waxing and Waning

The Washington Post reports today that there is growing skepticism about Bush’s social security plan.  In yesterday’s web edition of the Post, the support was waning.  Either way, it looks like bad news for privatization.  Only 35% of poll respondents approve of how Bush is handling social security.  But look at these numbers from the detailed report on the poll numbers:

9. I’m going to mention changes some leaders have proposed
for Social Security. Please tell me if you support or oppose each one.


                                                Support     Oppose     No opin. 
a. Increasing the Social Security tax rate       32          64          4

b. Collecting Social Security taxes on all the
   money a worker earns, rather than taxing only
   up to the first $90,000 of annual income      56          40          4

c. Raising the retirement age to receive full
   Social Security benefits to 68, instead of
   the current 67                                33          66          2

d. Further reducing the benefits paid to people
   who retire early. For instance, people who
   retire at age 62 would get 63% of their full
   benefits, rather than the current 70%         36          62          2

e. (HALF SAMPLE) Changing the way Social Security
   benefits are calculated so that benefits increase
   at a slower rate than they would under the
   current formula                               37          57          6

f. (HALF SAMPLE) Reducing guaranteed benefits for
   future retirees                               20          75          5

So respondents don’t approve of Bush’s handling of the issue, but other than raising taxes on people who earn more than $90,000 a year, virtually every other solution to social security’s problems are as unpopular as what Bush has offered.  But here’s the real eye-opening result:

Would you support or oppose a plan in which people who chose to could
invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market?

                Support     Oppose     No opin.   
3/13/05           56          41          3
12/19/04          53          44          3
7/15/02           52          45          3
4/22/01           53          46          2
3/25/01           52          45          3
10/30/00 LV       58          35          8       
9/6/00   RV       59          37          4       
5/10/00           64          31          5

Way down in the article, maybe a quarter of a way from the end, the story eventually mentions that some respondents do support private accounts but doesn’t report the overall level of support.  Instead, there’s an analysis of the differences in support by age:

In this month’s poll, 68 percent of adults 18 to 29 years old said they
support investing some Social Security contributions in the stock
market. That support falls with the respondents’ age, to 60 percent
among those 40 to 49, 53 percent among those 50 to 64, and 37 percent
among those 65 and older.

So among people 50 and younger, 60% or more support private accounts.  The only people who oppose private accounts are the elderly.  That would have made an interesting headline:

Bush Does Poor Job Marketing Private Accounts

Whether it’s marketing or reporting, or the plan is too complicated or phased in too slowly, the numbers suggest that there may be hope for private plans, despite the Post’s pessimism.


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