The first Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll since Bush got re-elected finds that public opinion remains rather skeptical about any shifts in the 69-year-old Social Security program — which offers retirement and disability income to more than 47 million Americans — and is wary of rewriting the tax code.
The public, by 50% to 38%, is inclined to believe it’s "a bad idea" to let workers invest Social Security taxes in the stock market. Similarly, the poll found Americans somewhat more likely to advocate leaving the tax code as is rather than embracing some of the more sweeping changes that have been advanced.
I would be remiss if I failed to point out that private retirement accounts — such as IRAs and 401k — have existed for many years. Further, IRAs in particular tend to be not fully funded by people in the lower salaried employees — the bottom tax brackets — who would be most impacted by a decrease in Social Security benefits when they retire.
Playing to the Base: The Journal poll also found that while the president retains "overwhelming personal and ideological support among Republicans" he fares much more poorly amongst people who have not drunk the kool aid. Not surprisingly, President Bush generates poor ratings (personal and ideological) amongst Democrats, and produces "mixed feelings" among political independents. (duh).
How likely is the passage of a full revamp of Social Security or a overhaul of the Tax Code? Perhaps less likely than many presuppose:
"The upshot is that the president, to sell his legislative program, will have to repeat the winning formula for his 2004 campaign: add just enough middle-of-the-road support to his strong political base to form a narrow majority.
On contentious issues such as Social Security and tax overhaul, "that’s a difficult starting position," says Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. Yet as the November election proved, Mr. McInturff adds, "they have sustained their coalition with these numbers" so far."
For those who believe that a major shift in Social Security is likely to be an unmitigated disaster, that’s encouraging news.
As Bush Sells 2nd-Term Agenda, New Poll Shows Public’s Doubts
JOHN HARWOOD and JOHN D. MCKINNON
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, December 16, 2004; Page A4