WASHINGTON – The word came down from the GOP's polling experts: The proper phrase is "personal accounts," never "private accounts," when talking about President Bush's plan for Social Security. (search)
Evidently, some of the president's supporters didn't get the memo. Both terms are widely used on a Web site sponsored by the Republican National Committee that invites supporters to post their views.
"Social Security must be changed to have private accounts," wrote a man from Arkansas.
"I'm all for private accounts," wrote a California woman.
"Privatization is a great idea," said an Ohio doctor.
Under the Bush plan, younger workers could divert a portion of their Social Security taxes (search) into private/personal accounts that could be invested in the stock market. In trade, their traditional benefits would drop.
Republican strategists told their allies on the Social Security issue to avoid the words "privatization" and "private accounts (search)" in describing Bush's proposal after polls showed those terms bother people. Instead, the strategists advised, use "personal accounts," a term that makes them feel they have control.
"I am in favor of privatizing a portion of Social Security, with the eventual goal of discontinuing it altogether," Minna Andriulli of Kingston, Tenn., wrote on the Republican National Committee's Web site.
Asked in an interview why she used the term "privatizing," she said: "I think that it really is privatization. They avoid using the word because the news media makes a mess of it. It has gotten kind of a bad connotation."
The RNC, which screens the comments before posting them on the Internet, steers people to the Web site with e-mails to the 7.5 million people on its mailing list.
The site, preservingsocialsecurity.com, features more than 1,500 postings. It is dominated by people who support Bush's plan, but also includes comments from opponents and people who favor raising taxes to fix the system.
RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt suggested that supporters who use the term "privatize" are listening to the wrong people.
"There's been a concerted effort on the part of Democrats to spread misinformation," she said. "The word `privatizing' has unfortunately seeped into the public dialogue."