Saturday, April 2, 2005

Following the AARP, NOW, NAACP and other left-leaning groups’ hysteria over Social Security reform and personal retirement accounts, the Rock the Vote campaign is weighing in and misinforming a whole new generation.

Rock the Vote says it is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, founded in 1990 in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression” and that it “harnesses cutting-edge trends and pop culture to make political participation cool.”

Along with its leftist cohorts, Rock the Vote calls private retirement accounts a “ripoff” and accuses reform promoters of scare tactics. “Don’t be fooled — they’re trying to take advantage of you,” they caution. They also say bankruptcy claims are false and 100 percent of benefits can be paid for the next 40-50 years because the government has tons of money. Apparently our National Parks are overrun with money trees. Unfortunately, they will soon be endangered if Social Security continues as it is.

Rock the Vote, however, tries to scare people in its own disingenuous campaign: “There are some politicians who want to phase Social Security out” and “really don’t think we should have a Social Security program at all, and they want to get rid of it.” Who are these anonymous, renegade politicians?

Among Rock the Vote’s top 10 reasons young people should oppose Social Security reform is that the current system is “retro chic,” “politicians want to trick you” and “investments are a gamble.” Their No. 1 reason: It’s better to “visit your grandparents — at their house” because “before Social Security, for most families, all the generations lived under one roof.” Rock the Vote views its constituency as shallow, ditzy victims who don’t want to live with their grandparents.

So, how can an apathetic generation be made to care about Social Security? Sell T-shirts, trucker hats (so much for “cutting edge”) and thongs emblazoned slogans. Not coincidentally, Rock the Vote sells its items through a Democratic Web site.

Other items sold include the “Wreck the Nation” board game, “Wake me up in 4 years” sleep mask and “We Survived 8 Years of Reagan, We’ll Survive This” bumper stickers. So much for Rock the Vote’s insistence it is “nonpartisan.”

Based on recent polling, clearly all Americans need to be educated about Social Security. A March 2005 MWR Strategies poll found 46 percent doesn’t even know the current tax (12.4 percent) for Social Security benefits. And 68 percent of those polled believe they have a legal right to benefits.

The Supreme Court said otherwise. In the 1960 decision in Flemming v. Nestor, the court ruled paying into the system does not make receiving benefits a “contractual right.”

The Rock the Vote Social Security campaign takes a page from other leftist groups by saying its audience are victims who need the government to look after them. But future generations will become victims if they blindly finance an unreformed Social Security system that allows no control of retirement savings.

Most polls show young Americans especially understand the issue: Financial freedom is hot; trucker hats with stupid slogans are not. A majority under-30 folks believe personal retirement accounts are a good idea and trust themselves more than the government to manage their retirement funds.

Rock the Vote is out of touch with the real views of young people. Rather than support what’s best for its self-proclaimed constituency, it misinforms about Social Security reform.

The young generation often is depicted as apathetic, shallow clones. Imagine if its legacy were liberation from an antiquated retirement system by the adoption of individually controlled accounts that not only create wealth but a cycle of wealth that benefits generations to come.

If Rock the Vote truly wants to be cutting-edge, it needs to lose the liberal talking points and stand up for what most young Americans want — financial independence in choosing retirement plans.


Program director

Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute

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