“Do you believe seniors living in gutters is the future of ‘social security’?”
The back and forth over Social Security only further convinced the constituencies on the Right and Left what those respective constituencies already believed: that Social Security is/isn’t a Ponzi scheme.
This may be the new reality in a politically polarized America, but for liberals who are expected to elevate political issues beyond the talking points and frameworks of Republican demagogues, they failed miserably – and I believe they will continue to fail for three reasons: First, because all ideologues are hard-headed, and the current “base” of the Republican Party is full of ideologues; secondly, because facts that don’t align with a party’s agenda aren’t facts at all; and lastly, because it takes only one liberal to admit publicly that there are similarities between a Ponzi scheme and Social Security, and when that liberal concedes, as Matthews did, it opens a small but fatal chink in the Left’s armor that conservatives will exploit until everyone knows that “Liberals agree,” in this case, “that it’s a Ponzi scheme.”
The Left missed the point – and a great opportunity to actually elevate the debate.
Comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, even if the comparison is intended to show how Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, is still comparing Social Security to a fraudulent scam. It relies on a Republican framework – Perry’s framework – and it criminalizes Social Security from the start.
Who cares what Perry thinks?
How a Tea Partier defines Social Security is irrelevant. The future of the program is the issue. And that should be the framework.
Rather than battling over a definition coined by a crank, the Left needs to focus on what Social Security would become under a President Perry – or a President Romney. Despite the two candidates’ differences in rhetoric, both believe in “fixes” that lead to the program’s demise.
Both Perry and Romney have voiced their support for creating private, individual social insurance accounts – which Romney claimed in 2007 is different from “privatization,” even if it isn’t different at all. Rather than minor tweaks, which is all that will be required to extend the longevity of a program that has already worked for three-quarters of a century, Republicans prefer scrapping the entire point of Social Security: the security part.
Whereas Democrats understand the moral imperative of maintaining a program that for 75 years has helped keep senior citizens out of poverty, Republicans, in contrast, believe that if you live past a certain age and run out of the money you paid into a private retirement account, oh well. You can “live in a gutter,” as Limbaugh put it.
That is the difference between Republicans and Democrats, and that is the comparison liberals and Democrats ought to be making. Publicly. Not terms and definitions and contrasting arguments about slight similarities that even Chris Matthews can’t quite pin down, but the heartlessness of forcing senior citizens to “live in a gutter” if they live too long, if they are injured as working adults, if their spouses die, or if they’re otherwise unable to work long enough to build up a sufficient savings. Social Security is not a retirement account, it’s an anti-poverty program that provides some dignity to seniors.
Rather than letting the Right frame the argument over Social Security by forcing the Left into a battle over semantics, the Left needs to refocus the issue to its core by asking the question, “Do you believe seniors living in gutters is the future of ‘social security’?”
(read the rest of “The Meaning of ‘Ponzi scheme’ vs. The Consequences of ‘Privatization’.”)
It’s about framing. When liberals use conservative framing, we give the frame legitimacy where there is none.
A very salient point, indeed.
[cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]