In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 4, 2005 / 25 Nisan, 5765

Dinner table English: A primer

By Tony Snow

Tony Snow
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Polls indicate President Bush is taking a pounding on the issue of Social Security. I will explain tomorrow why many of these reports are exaggerated. Today, I'll focus on the simpler issue of why his Social Security sales pitch stinks.

Consider the following passage from the opening statement of the president's April 28 press conference:

"Congress also needs to address the challenges facing Social Security. I've traveled the country to talk with the American people. They understand that Social Security is headed for serious financial trouble, and they expect their leaders in Washington to address the problem.

"Social Security worked fine during the last century, but the math has changed. A generation of baby boomers is getting ready to retire. I happen to be one of them.

Today there are about 40 million retirees receiving benefits; by the time all the baby boomers have retired, there will be more than 72 million retirees drawing Social Security benefits. Baby boomers will be living longer and collecting benefits over long retirements than previous generations. And Congress has ensured that their benefits will rise faster than the rate of inflation.

"In other words, there's a lot of us getting ready to retire who will be living longer and receiving greater benefits than the previous generation. And to compound the problem, there are fewer people paying into the system. In 1950, there were 16 workers for every beneficiary; today there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary; soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary.

"These changes have put Social Security on the path to bankruptcy. When the baby boomers start retiring in three years, Social Security will start heading toward the red. In 2017, the system will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. Every year after that the shortfall will get worse, and by 2041, Social Security will be bankrupt."

Check out the leaden phrases: "the math has changed...40 million retirees receiving benefits...more than 72 million retirees drawing Social Security benefits...16 workers for every beneficiary...3.3 workers for every beneficiary; soon there will be two workers for every beneficiary...In 2017...by 2041..."

Not one syllable of this stuff resonates with people sitting at home watching on TV. It sounds as if some rogue accountant has invaded the president's body, and filled his head statistical dross.

I agree with the president, and I actually sympathize with his argument, but this is unbearably abstract and dull. So what would I, Mr. Smarty Pants Radio Host, do instead? I would speak Dinner Table English. Here are the key rules:

  • Rule Number One: Stay out of the tall grass.

    Every speechwriter fancies turning the president into the G-d of All Policy Wonks. A good stack of statistics give the impression that the commander in chief not only is the head of government, but has total, dazzling mastery of each and every topic that crosses his desk. Reams of numbers also put people to sleep. Tall Grass speeches almost always impress the wrong people — policy analysts, scholars, nerds who have spent their lives poring over reams of statistical analysis.

  • Rule Number Two: Explain the core issue in terms people can understand.

    Yes, Social Security is an actuarial nightmare and yes, the trustees of the system warn of dire consequences in the distant and not-so-distant futures, but the real problem is far more fundamental than that. The real sin with Social Security is that it's a long-term rip-off and a short-term scam.

    Here's how the system works. Every pay period, Uncle Sam takes some of our earnings and claims to set it aside for Social Security. Instead, Congress spends the money immediately. There is no Social Security Trust Fund. Nobody is placing your earnings in a safe place, where it might earn interest and grow in value. Politicos are spending it — on merry-go-rounds, $500,000 rest-stop outhouses, and other matters of vital federal concern.

    When you retire, Congress will give you back some of the money you contributed, but there is no guarantee you'll get what you've been promised. If the honorables have spent the money, you may get back only a fraction of what you contributed, and if you get shorted, there's nothing you can do about it. The Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the topic.

    In other words, Social Security is every bit as insecure as the stock market. Actually, it is more so. There is no five- or ten-year period in which the stock market produced a lower return than Social Security. Therefore, if you put your money into a market account, rather than just giving it to Congress to spend, you stand a very high chance of retiring richer. To get some idea how much, try out the Cato Institute's Social Security calculator.

    So, to return to our dinner-table rhetoric rule, here's a simple question that translates the Social Security issue into simple terms:

    "What would you rather do for your retirement: Let Congress spend your nest egg today, or set aside money in a market account, where it can gather interest and grow from now until the day you retire?"

    This formulation leads us to

  • Rule Number Three: When possible, humanize conflict by identifying a villain and a hero

    This one is a no-brainer. Congress is the villain in this tale. It has turned Social Security into a piggy bank, which it raids with impunity.

    The president can become the White Hat by proposing an arrangement that takes away Congress's temptation to steal by establishing personal retirement accounts that honorables cannot touch, and replacing an insecure system with one that offers the very real prospect of a more secure and lucrative retirement.

    To rephrase, in terms of good guys and bad guys: In this issue, the bad guys steal your money, while the good guy returns it...with interest.

  • Rule Number Four: Lay out a battle plan, and invite the public to join in the fun.

    It's all well and good to analyze a problem, find a villain, and describe policies that will create a happy, wonderful world, but none of this will excite voters unless a politician has a plan for getting to the promised land.

    The president hasn't done this. White House sources say he won't unveil a plan until this summer. But that will give him the chance to marshal his rhetorical sources, speak a little Dinner Table English, and turn what to date has been a P.R. disaster into the opening salvo in a successful battle to overhaul a system that began as a wonderful system to aid widows and orphans, but over the years hardened into a costly and potentially disastrous hoax.

That's all for this installment of Dinner Table Talk, but in coming days, I'll apply the same tools to some of the key Social Security arguments — such as the claim the president wants to "cut benefits" by vast sums.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor, and syndicated talk show host, Tony Snow's column by clicking here.

Tony Snow Archives

© 2005, Fox News Channel