The Ponzi Scheme Poll

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 8 2011 8:37 AM

The Ponzi Scheme Poll

The Mitt Romney campaign has decided that Rick Perry aimed at fired at his own feet with his Social Security answers last night.

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How many voters actually agree with him? Rasmussen Reports actually tried to ask, coming up with a poll on that question: Is Social Security a Ponzi scheme? So 27 percent say yes, 36 percent say no, and 37 percent, confronted with a weird Italian name and a concept that only comes up when Rick Perry or Bernie Madoff is in the news, are not sure. It's that last factor that makes me doubt the meaningfullness of the poll. In early 2009, Rasmussen asked voters what they thought of cap and trade. Only 24 percent could only say what it was. Two years later, even in death, it's one of the most-hated items in the Democratic agenda.

Perry, like a lot of conservatives in his generation -- Jim DeMint's another -- thinks the argument about whether Social Security should be privatized is already won. Young voters don't think they'll get it, so the campaign writes itself. Now, as in 2005, you've got to be skeptical. The gripe that voters have with some government programs is that they don't provide enough security, that they're too expensive, and that they're too much hassle. Case in point: In New Hampshire, I had a good long talk with a Tea Party activist at Sarah Palin's speech, culminating with his complaint against "Obamacare." Since Obamacare had passed, he said, he wasn't getting a free check-up as part of Medicare anymore! Obama had cut money from the program! The comfy, convenient thing he used to get had been taken away!

Repeat that thought process for Social Security and you see why Romney feels like he has an oepning, even in the primary.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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