Bush On Social Security: ‘Privatization’ Was A ‘Poll-Tested Word’


In the debate over his plans to partially privatize Social Security in 2005, “privatization” was “obviously a poll-tested word,” says former President George W. Bush.

Bush, who has called the washout of his Social Security plans his biggest failure, told Rush Limbaugh yesterday that he was never out to privatize the program.“That’s a codeword, ‘privatization.’ That’s obviously a poll-tested word,” Bush said. “And so all I said was younger workers ought to have a chance to set aside some of their money in an account that earns a better rate of return than their money in the Social Security trust fund.”

But, as TPM noted back in 2005, Bush himself often used the word “privatization.” Eventually, Karl Rove convinced him and others in the administration to not only stop using the word but to disavow it altogether and suggest its use was “editorializing” on the part of newspapers.

The conservative libertarian Cato Institute, which supported Bush’s plan, also used and advocated for “privatization” since 1995.

Bush also blamed the failure of the legislation on the greed for power in Washington.

“And, of course, you know, by having a defined contribution plan as opposed to a defined benefit plan, you’re taking power away from people in Washington, and that created a lot of angst,” he said. “One of these days people will reform Social Security, and I was pleased to lay out a solution.”

[Ed. note: This article was edited after publication.]