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On Social Security, Angle Takes Both Sides in One Day

August 14, 2010

The 2000 presidential campaign witnessed a fierce battle over the future of Social Security, pitting the private, personal accounts of George W. Bush versus Al Gore's "lockbox." Ten years later, Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Sharron Angle has taken both sides in a single day.
In her just-released ad titled, "Social Security," Sharron Angle did a quick 180 from her old privatization line. The spot proclaims "Sharron Angle is fighting for critical lockbox legislation." And as The Atlantic noted:

Speaking to a small group of voters, Angle claims that Reid needs Social Security funds "for his own pet projects" and plans to violate the nation's "contract with our seniors."
"I'd like to save Social Security," Angle says, "by locking the lockbox, putting the money back into the trust fund so the government can no longer raid our retirement."

But literally the same day, Angle made two right turns to end up at her original position. The lockbox would indeed be opened after all. Like Bush before her, Angle supports letting workers withdraw the trillions of dollars paying for today's retirees and instead putting the money into their own personal accounts. Just like in Pinochet's Chile:

Angle referred to Chile at the opening of a campaign office in North Las Vegas while explaining previous statements that the United States should phase out its Social Security system.
"When I said privatize, that's what I meant," she said Thursday.
"I thought we would have to go just to the private sector for a template on how this is supposed to be done," Angle said. "However, I've since been studying, and Chile has done this."

Even before this week, Angle's struggles on the issue had already reached comic proportions. Before her primary win, her web site proclaimed, "Free market alternatives, which offer retirement choices to employees and employers, must be the Social Security system is transitioned out." And as she famously told Face to Face host Jon Ralston in May:

"We need to phase Medicare and Social Security out in favor of something privatized."

But after nose-diving in the polls for endorsing the second coming of George W. Bush's wildly unpopular privatization scheme, Sharron Angle tried to whitewash history. As she put it during the July convention of RightOnline:

During Angle's less-than-10-minute speech, she outlined her philosophy to cut the deficit and talked of her "simple" campaign plan she calls "Pay back, cut back and take back." To start with she said the government should pay back the $2.5 trillion that's been "raided and pillaged out of the Social Security fund."
"I've never said I want to eliminate, I always said I want to save Social Security by paying back. But to do that we have to cut back."

Save it, that is, by killing it.
Of course, by now Sharron Angle's double-speak is legendary. After announcing she planned to "take Harry Reid out," Angle clarified her seeming threat. "I meant take him out of office," she said later, "I changed my rhetoric."
And that time, she waited more than a day to do it.
UPDATE: As the likes of Sharron Angle and Paul Ryan show, President Obama had good reason to use his weekly Saturday address to warn of the Republican threat to Americans' retirement security. But while the President said, "I'd have thought that debate would've been put to rest once and for all by the financial crisis we've just experienced," leading Republican seem intent on dusting off their plan to help George W. Bush privatize Social Security.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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