Issue:  Social Security

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Depression era mother
Library of Congress



It's up to the communicator to get his or her message through.  Don't blame the person who didn't understand you.  Learn to theme your issue or policy discussion with words that have meaning our values.



Do NOT use or repeat the radical Republican's language.  Learn to theme your conversations and presentations with our values and keywords instead.


Inventing a Crisis and Fake Crisis, both by economist Paul Krugman

Social Security Con Job

Pessimistic Conservatives Cannot Fix Social Security

What Social Security Crisis?

Chart of the Stock Market Crash

Paul Krugman on Social Security at Democracy Now!


Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

Social Security is Death and Disability Insurance

Position statement:  Democrats maintain that Social Security is a guaranteed insurance policy that we own; a safety blanket that protects Americans from old age poverty and working age disability. If nothing is done to change Social Security today, it will remain solvent for another fifty years, and then it can still pay 80% of benefits. We believe that Social Security should be strengthened and not weakened.

By contrast, radical Republicans believe that Social Security should be changed from a government administered insurance policy to a private opportunity for a Wall Street windfall.  Every American could see their secure retirement benefits drop through the floor as our safety net is cut.  Stock market investments provide no guaranteed income whatsoever upon retirement, death, disability as does our current social security insurance policy.

Frame using these values:



  • Guarantee

  • Protection

  • Security

  • Safety

  • Interdependence

Repeat these ready-made frames:  "It's a Guarantee not a Gamble"; Insurance Policy; Guaranteed Safety Net; Secure Nest Egg
Reframe using these concepts:  "People not Wall Street"; Privatization of our retirement is "Social Insecurity"; "Pirate Accounts"; Good for Corporate interest, bad for People's interest; Fake crisis; "High Stakes Gambling" with our retirement; "Wall Street Windfall" at the people's expense; 2 trillion dollar giveaway of our money to Wall Street; Tweak Social Security not gut it; strengthened, not destroyed; [Return to] "Old Age Poverty"; "On the Streets" if you become disabled; Increases the $36,000 "Baby Tax" (deficit spending) for every child born in America today; Triples the "Instant Debt" for babies born in America; Replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of 40% or more; Radical, reckless and extreme; 
Contrast using these words:  "Piratizers"; Radical "Robber Baron Republicans"; Irresponsible "Credit Card Republicans"; Reckless "Borrow and Spend Republicans"; "Red Ink Republicans"
Avoid repeating these words:  "crisis", "problem", "reform"
Know the tools in the radical Republican tool chest: 

1.  Republican's 100 page messaging playbook Gut Social Security Playbook (PDF)

2.  The Radical Republican Manifesto: The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement by Eric Heubeck;

3.  Frank Luntz Republican Playbook Searchable Text-Version

4. "14 Words Never to Use"

Quick facts*: 
  1. Current system is making money and is solvent until the year 2042.
  2. Cost is 2-3 TRILLION dollars just to set it up.
  3. Current program is the most successful government program in history, working for 75 years.
  4. Current program is solvent until 2050, and even then it can still pay out 80% with no changes at all.
  5. 2 easy ways to smooth out any wrinkle in Social Security
    1. Remove the $90,000 cap.  This fixes any future problem with little or no cost to us.
    2. Applying a "means test" If you don't need social security, you don't draw it.  This fixes any future problem with little or no cost to us.
  6. Radical Republican plan will bankrupt Social Security in 2006.
  7. Radical Republican plan cuts benefits by 50% for children born today; 40 years old or older?  Get a 35% cut in benefits by retirement age.
  8. The Social Security Trustees (unnecessarily) pessimistic estimate is that over the next 75 years the program faces a budget shortfall of $3.7 trillion.  Persident says this will impact the federal budget.  Look at the President's irresponsible* plans already passed: 

    $8.1 trillion is the cost of the worthless Medicare drug plan over the next 75 years.
    $11.6 trillion over the next 75 years, is the cost of the President's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts (if made permanent)
    (These statistics from this budgeting summary from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

*Remember to frame any facts within a values statement or metaphor.


Talking Points for target audience:

For the younger crowd that appears to favor changing Social security from an insurance policy to a privatized account

Social Security is an insurance policy, with a guaranteed payout when certain circumstances arise.  It's not a personal account.  We have personal accounts already, why not change the rules for 401K's and IRA's instead of cutting our guaranteed safety net?

What if the stock market dropped, or even busted like it did for the dot coms or the Great Depression?  Do you want to support your parents?  What will you do if you become disabled and unable to work in five years?  You are gambling your nest egg, dropping your insurance policy and entering a high risk betting scheme with something you can't afford to lose.  Do you know that Social Security is solvent until 2042?  And to fix any problem, all we have to do is remove the $90,000 cap on contributions and we're there.  Social Security is an insurance policy designed to be there when we need it.  Guaranteed.  So let's strengthen it, not destroy it.

For every audience

How much will you lose under Bush's privatization scheme?  Click on the calculator to find out:




Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

DNC Fact Check on Social Security

Several Trillions Would Need to be Borrowed

Social Security Administration Summary Report by Trustees (2004)

Economic Policy Institute Excellent list of current publications, resources and economic opinions

Americans United to Protect Social Security



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