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Dems Must Use Social Security Battle As Springboard

When he heard about John Kerry's statement on funding the war in Iraq, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it," Karl Rove reportedly responded with lip-smacking glee "You don't get a gift like that very often."

Greg Anrig returns the favor in a new American Prospect article "The President's Gift" and cuts a fresh angle on the opportunity presented by President Bush's Social Security privatization scheme. Anrig, vice president of The Century Foundation and co-editor of "Social Security: Beyond the Basics," argues that Bush's proposal "gives liberals more than just a good shot at a legislative victory. It gives them a chance to define themselves."

Anrig skewers the GOP premise that workers'retirement security "should depend on how well the stocks and bonds in their accounts perform." He argues that Dems must hammer home their message that working peoples' retirement income must instead be anchored "to their earnings over the course of their careers." Winning the Social Security battle, Anrig believes, will give the Dems an even greater victory:

simply gaining ownership of the word “security” has the potential to pay enormous dividends with the public on both domestic and international issues...Progressives should no longer be undecided about what should come between “It’s” and “stupid.” Security, security, security.

Anrig says the GOP push for privatization gives the Democrats an unprecedented opportunity to reveal the Republicans as the party of impractical ideologues, whose grandiose policies won't work on "planet earth." This gives the Dems a chance to project a stronger alternative:

Contrasting the well-established desire of liberals to achieve real-world results with the fanciful theories of conservative ideologues can help progressives win on a range of issues, just as it is helping on Social Security.

Anrig urges Dems to drive home this message:

Conservatives are dividers, not uniters; they cannot be trusted to run the government; they care more about ideology than results; and they value the unpredictability of markets over your personal security.

If the Democrats amplify this message over the next 18 months, it could produce victories in the '06 elections -- and strengthen the party for even greater gains in the long term.