Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More on Social Security Privatization Polling

by Tom Bozzo

The short blogging break (due to a family visit followed by sick child) almost caused me to miss this Dartblog item, where Joe Malchow figures that I'd object to Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll language that finds 60% support (28% opposed, 12% not sure) for an item worded:
Do you favor or oppose giving individuals the choice to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in stocks or mutual funds.
I guess I can consider it a major blogging achievement that it strikes a conservative blog pal that a Fox News poll might not be neutrally worded, even if he's a little sarcastic about it. The preceding item in the poll, BTW, asks respondents whether or not they understand that they'd have the "choice" to participate, which I'd view as leading respondents to a positive response to the main private accounts question.

Joe's conclusion is not uncontroversial:
But we know what America wants. Now, Congress needs to find a way to serve those desires.

Questions of the Fox poll's variety tell us rather less about what the public wants than Joe would seem to be suggesting. My counter-interpretation: offered a free lunch, the public is willing to take it by a 60-28 margin. The relevant policy question is whether it's in the power of Congress to provide a free lunch.

An implication of my previous discussion here is that while the nascent Bush "plan" may be structured to have plausible deniability for being a free lunch (if you don't look too closely at its probable details), it has several failure modes that would turn it into a multitrillion dollar boondoggle. Amazingly, knowing things like this reduces support for the plan, as the latest Pew poll shows:
In general, opposition to the plan to allow private accounts is much higher among people who have heard a lot about it than among those who are less familiar with it. Overall, people who have heard a lot about the plan oppose it by 52%-41%, while those who have heard little or nothing favor it by a 47% to 30% margin.

Next: Not all academics are liberals. Two conservative economics profs from my undergraduate alma mater's right-leaning department shill for privatization in the Wilmington (Delaware) News-Journal (hat-tip: Mom). We'll take a look at the misleading rhetoric to which otherwise respectable profs must resort put lipstick on the pig, before cycling back to the Texas alternative plans.
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