fresh voices from the front lines of change







Sen. John McCain, I’m one of your friends, right? The kind of friend who can handle some of your special brand of Straight Talk™.

So why won’t you just tell me you hate Social Security?

Twice this week you lambasted the founding principle of Social Security, that, as you described, “we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today.” In separate appearances, you called the way Social Security has been structured for more than 70 years an “absolute disgrace,” and a “broken” system.

Twice! You even called that pronouncement “Straight Talk™.” That’s no slip of the tongue. You must mean it.

So why did you backtrack yesterday when asked about it from reporters? Instead of saying that you hate the founding principle of Social Security, you revised your remarks: “They are paying into a system that they won’t receive benefits from on the present track that it’s on – that’s the point.”

That’s not even Straight Talk™! As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities explained after the last Social Security trustees report, “Social Security is structurally sound and does not require drastic changes.”

While I thought we were friends, this sadly hasn’t been the first time this year in which you didn’t give me Straight Talk™ on Social Security.

You told the Wall Street Journal in March that you support President Bush’s earlier proposal to partially privatize Social Securtiy, saying, “As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it — along the lines that President Bush proposed.” When the Journal pointed out your website said something different, you promised to change the website.

You still haven’t! And do you know how hard it is to even find the two sentences describing your Social Security position on your website? It’s not even mentioned under your “Issues” menu on the homepage. You just said “Americans have got to understand” what a “disgrace” the program is. How can they if your website won’t tell them?!

Most importantly, why did you tell the Wall Street Journal that you support “private savings accounts?” Why bother with the Karl Rove/Frank Luntz poll-tested phrases? That’s not Straight Talk™! Say what you really mean: “privatization!”
That’s what you did in 2004.

After being asked if “privatizing Social Security [would] be a priority for you moving forward,” you responded, “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.”

Yet, last month, you pretended you never said that, telling voters at a town hall, “I’m not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be.”

What is it about Social Security that makes you allergic to Straight Talk™? Are you worried about keeping one of your few leads in the polls, among seniors?

I’m sure if you told seniors that you hate Social Security, always have and always will, they’d understand.

Maybe they wouldn’t vote for you, but at least you could still be friends.

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