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Friday, June 17, 2005

I am pleased by the CBS News/NY Times Poll
discussed by Robin Toner and Marjorie Connelly

Increasingly pessimistic about Iraq and skeptical about President Bush's plan for Social Security, Americans are in a season of political discontent, giving Mr. Bush one of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and Congress one of its lowest rating in years, according to the New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Forty-two percent of those polled said they approved of the way Mr. Bush is handling his job,

However, Toner and Connelly seem to need to balance the views expressed in the polls with a few comments in their own voices supporting Bush. Balance is nice, but on each point Toner and Connelly are wrong.

Mr. Bush faces a very resistant public when it comes to his Social Security proposals. He recently embraced a solvency plan that would cushion the lowest-income workers from any benefit cuts, but a majority in the survey said they still believed Mr. Bush's general plan would benefit high-income people the most.

Here Toner and Connelly don't say that the majority in the survey are wrong, but they strongly suggest that they are prejudiced against Bush. Obviously, the guess that if Bush proposes something then it would favor the rich is not paranoia. Only someone who has been on the moon for the past five years can have failed to notice the pattern. Indeed Bush's secret plan is best for high income people. The reason has been explained from time to time by Brad DeLong. The secret plan deducts money put in personal accounts from the guaranteed benefit charging interest of 3% plus inflation. This would imply a negative guaranteed benefit for rich people. There is no plan to charge them this negative guaranteed benefit, so, as guessed the majority in the survey, the Bush secret plan would be best for the rich.

The president has spent months trying to explain the virtues of private investment accounts, but public opinion on them remains very divided. Forty-five percent said those accounts were a good idea, 50 percent a bad idea, the same breakdown found in the survey in January.

Really shouldn't it be "The president has spent months promoting private investment accounts". Taken literally the word "explain" implies that he understands and is honest and that the benighted public just doesn't get it. It is normal for politicians to claim that their propaganda is an explanation. It should not be normal for reporters.

I skip a paragraph to which I do not object.

Americans also recognized that Mr. Bush has a Social Security plan and the Democrats in Congress do not.

Just a few lines ago Bush was explaining, hence presumably honest, now Toner and Connelly bluntly (and accurately) say that he is a liar. Bush has refused to release the details of his plan and actually claims that he is still working on it (using the feedback from his town hall meetings coached supporters I guess). Of course the reason the plan is secret is that the more people learn about it the less they like it. Of course the Democrats do have a plan which is to change nothing until they have a majority. Like most Americans, I prefer this plan to Bush's.

I was not joking about the perceived need to balance the negative views in the poll. I think the balance reflex has gotten that strong. Hmmm Krugman said that if Bush said the Earth was flat the headline would read "opinions about shape of earth differ". I think it's gotten to the point that if a reporter feels the need to mention his or her jet lag, he or she would feel the need to add "but I really enjoyed reading Friedman's new book on the plane."

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