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January 26, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (New York Times Edition)

First it was Social Security "privatization"; then it was Social Security "private accounts"; then it was Social Security "personal accounts"; now the New York Times is plumping for "individual investment accounts":

Josh Micah Marshall reports:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: January 23, 2005 - January 29, 2005 Archives:
NYT, down for the count. First line of David Rosenbaum's piece on the Bush phase-out plan from Thursday's paper: "If individual investment accounts become an integral part of Social Security, as President Bush is proposing, what will happen to workers who become disabled before they retire?" At this point I guess you can't blame the individual reporters, some of whose reporting is superb. It's just that the editors seem to have given the stylebook to Rove and Luntz for a scrub, or done it themselves on R&L's behalf.

Why not call them "second-rate accounts that aren't there just when you need them the most"? After all, you will value your Social Security benefits the most when the other pieces of your retirement portfolio don't do well--and in that case your "individual investment account" won't be worth much either.

Posted by DeLong at January 26, 2005 08:24 PM


despite all the mea culpas about poor coverage on WMDs and Iraq, i had little expectation that the media would learn and improve.

even so, i was too optimistic....

Posted by: howard at January 26, 2005 08:33 PM

How about "social insecurity accounts".

Posted by: John Emerson at January 26, 2005 08:55 PM

One more word change and we're to "individual retirement account" and we already have those, so let's just allow you to divert a portion of your payroll tax there. And IRAs don't have any of those silly restrictions like you can only invest in low-fee index funds...

Posted by: Michael Cain at January 26, 2005 09:22 PM

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Posted by: at January 27, 2005 03:54 AM

Is there any evidence that people are more (dis-)affected by the term "private account" than by "individual investment account"?

I think that "individual investment account" sounds even worse.

Don't worry, I'm not whoring for the Republicans -- though I do wish I could get that Armstrong Williams type of private account. Is that one still available?

No, I guess I'm just sick to death of the whole thing and sick OF all the deaths and untold other problems these people are causing.

Posted by: Ralph at January 27, 2005 04:26 AM

404KU accounts?

Posted by: dilbert dogbert at January 27, 2005 07:06 AM

Much as we have Roth IRA I suggest

"Bush SS" accounts. How can he disagree with that and he gets branded or credited depending on your view. I really like the SS part. That is for Social Security.

Posted by: Tom Williams at January 27, 2005 07:16 AM

Can I suggest: Individual Insecurity accounts?

Posted by: VPenny at January 27, 2005 08:23 AM

The fact is that "personal" accounts IS more accurate than "private" accounts. There is no intention to create private property here - you really won't "own" anything. You get to play with some numbers and, if the timing is right, your prize at the end may be bigger than you expected. Personal Casino Retirement Accounts would be more accurate.

But actual "private ownership', forget it.

Posted by: peBird at January 27, 2005 09:03 AM

"Alpo accounts".

Posted by: lightning at January 27, 2005 09:53 AM

I have an individual investment account--with Ameritrade.

I pay taxes on gains for the year they are taken, and on dividends for the year they are paid.

I can take unlimited gains, but a loss of more than $3K must be taken over several years.

If you think about it, this is probably not much different from what the Administration is proposing. With one difference:

The account is worth having (instead of, say, EE savings bonds that are guaranteed to yield about 4.17% if held for 17 years) in large part because I know there is a lifetime annuity from Social Security for when I retire.

The Rove/Card idea used to be to pick an innocuous-sounding phrase that average Americans wouldn't think about it. Offhand, I would suggest that calling them "individual investment account" is a mistake the marketing-conscious Administration should not want to make.

Posted by: Ken Houghton at January 27, 2005 09:55 AM

Honestly, I have to side with the Frank Luntz on this one. If they want to call the personal accounts, then that is the name the press should be using when they are discussing their proposal.

But we should keep in mind that the press must afford everybody the same accomodation.

So if someone wants to start referring to abortion as liberation, then the press must do so.

Posted by: Steve at January 27, 2005 10:16 AM

Why not "individual risk accounts" since that's what's the system is intended to do: shift the risks associated with retirement planning back to individual retirees.

Posted by: s9 at January 27, 2005 01:38 PM

They can play with words all they want, they can impose their stylebook on the NYT, the WaPo and the networks. What they can't do is use honest numbers. Their current economic model (2008, 2018, 2042 for short) relies on a counter-factual number for 2004, it just didn't happen they way they said it would.

Their current strategy of fear-mongering "crisis" and "bankrupt" while refusing to put a single number on the table will not in my opinion be successful in the face of actual reporting. I just don't see how they can drive "crisis" up so far in the polling numbers that it will cause Congress to simply ignore the details of the plan. Because those voters who were flooding the phone with "CRISIS!!" in 2005 are not going to blame themselves in 2006 when the numbers are revealed, they are going to blame the guy who listened to them.

"Individual retirement accounts" is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the problem is not the words, the problem is the numbers. Theirs just don't add up.

Posted by: Bruce Webb at January 28, 2005 06:42 AM

[comment spam]

Posted by: at February 10, 2005 12:12 PM