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April 19, 2005

"Personal Accounts" Are Dead! Long Live "Social Security Modernization"!

The Carpetbagger Report has the goods:

Carpetbagger Report: First "privatization" was a good word; then the White House declared it off limits to everyone. Likewise, "private accounts" were a standard part of the Social Security discussion, right up until polls showed people didn't like it. The language police in the Bush White House have come to yet another realization about a word that, as Dan Froomkin noted today, we're likely to hear a lot more of in the months to come. Here's Karl Rove on CNN yesterday. See if you can spot the new poll-approved word.

[Bush] went to South Carolina today where the two United States Senators and the governor are in favor of Social Security modernization.... We do believe the cause of Social Security modernization is well-served by having a forthright debate about the pluses and minuses of any proposals laid out there.

Notice it? Here's Bush in South Carolina yesterday, offering another clue.

By giving younger workers an option to set up a personal savings account, we have an opportunity to modernize and strengthen a great American program.... See, telling younger workers they have to save money in a 1930s retirement system is like telling them that they have to use a cell phone with a rotary dial.

The Republicans were tinkering with this theme a month ago--comparing Social Security to a 1935 Ford, which House Republicans said they wouldn't want to be "caught dead in"--but it didn't take. Left with limited rhetorical options, it seems the White House is trying to bring it back.

Is "modernization" really the new word or has Bush been saying it all along? It%u2019s been mentioned here and there on occasion, but Bush was didn't use the word (or any similar word) at recent Social Security events in Ohio, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, compared to Karl Rove using it twice in a brief CNN interview. Sounds like this one's a recent addition to the rhetorical quiver. Be prepared for the onslaught.

Posted by DeLong at April 19, 2005 09:16 PM