Turns out that the Westfield visit was an interesting one. I really wish I could have gone.
Bush's rhetoric seems to have changed, according to this article. Instead of talking about carved-out accounts from Social Security, he's talking about them as "add-ons." This is mischaracterization of the highest order. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has already gone on about it, but I'd like to, at least for my 3 readers who don't read him.
When this whole thing initially started, the Administration was coming out in favor of "privatization." That word tested badly, so without changing the policy that they were supporting, they decided to call them "private accounts." Seemed, after a while, like the word "private" was the killer, so they started calling them "personal retirement accounts." Let's bear in mind, though, that the definition of "privatization" and the definition of "personal retirement accounts," so far as they were defined by the Administration, are identical. Not similar, not sort of alike, but identical.
Now another idea that was being floated by some members of Congress was for so-called "add-on" accounts. These would be actual personal retirement accounts created outside of the Social Security system that would allow workers the type of control that Bush has been talking about with his proposal. Let's be really clear here, though. "Add-on accounts" is a term for accounts created outside of Social Security. That's not disputable. They're called "add-on accounts" because they add money onto what you would get from Social Security.
Well, evidently "add-on" tested better than "private," because in his appearance in Westfield, Bush made this dubious claim:
It's your money, and the interest off that money goes to supplement the Social Security check that you're going to get from the federal government. Personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you. It doesn't replace the Social Security system.
The most insidious thing about this particular quote is that it stands to confuse even people who have payed relatively close attention to the Social Security debate. Obviously it'll confuse people who don't know any more than what he's telling them, but to the others, who know what "add-on accounts" are, this statement seems like a fundamental, major policy shift. Which it's not. When Bush talks about "that which the government is going to pay you," he's talking about the reduced Social Security benefits that you'll get if a partial privatization is enacted. But he's talking about it as though Social Security will remain intact, and his plan will give you money on top of that.
He knows what he's doing. It's deliberate, it's misleading, and it's despicable.