Bush’s Private Problem

A few days ago, in response to a question about the difference between personal and private accounts, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow purported, “The President has always referred to personal accounts, but some often mischaracterize them as ‘private accounts.’”

However, President Bush continues to interchange the words private and personal when discussing his plan for Social Security investment accounts. A day after Snow’s retort, the president used the term “private accounts” when stumping in Florida.

So, once again the question must be asked: what is the difference between personal and private accounts?

Polling numbers.

In an e-mail message, a top director of communications working for Congressional conservatives stated, “Every day, we fight [others] for using the term ‘privatization’ b/c [sic] every poll worth its salt shows it frightens the public.” Additionally, in their Social Security talking points memo, conservatives in Congress highlight the need to make a concerted effort to use “personalization” if one hopes to win over the public:

“Personalization” not “privatization”: Personalization suggests increased personal ownership and control. Privatization connotes the total corporate takeover of Social Security; this is inaccurate and thoroughly turns off listeners, who are very concerned about corporate wrongdoing.

Personal accounts are private accounts; the only difference is salesmanship semantics. So if they insist on sailing this sinking ship, conservatives might want to make sure their captain is onboard.