Business Week reported George Silli, a 66-year-old waiter from suburban Philadelphia, had a brush with President Bush's Ownership Society, and it was an experience he'll not soon forget. Silli's psyche and his wallet still bear the scorch marks of the 2000 market meltdown. He saw the value of his mutual funds drop by 60% and is convinced that opening Social Security to individual investing would produce similar results on a massive scale. ``If people are left to their own devices, we'll become top-heavy with poor people,'' Silli says.
He must have been a pretty poor investor. Here is the DJA Composite graph for 1980-2005. There have been short times when the market fell, but in the long run it is a very good investment.
A political independent, Silli has learned enough about the market to be pessimistic about a small fry's chances. He not only wants to leave Social Security alone but also thinks politicians should expand entitlements by mandating near-universal health insurance as a shield against soaring medical bills.
If he wants universal health care, he should move to Cuba. They have it, and it is universally bad. But he does not need to worry about personal accounts; they are totally voluntary, and if he does not want them he does not have to elect to go with them.Although Silli may not know it, he has plenty of company from all walks of American life. He's part of a diverse group that includes the pathologically risk-averse and those who are willing to take the Ownership Society for a spin -- as long as it's equipped with air bags.
April Tsirigotis, a 30-year-old Republican and an information technology executive from Lusby, Md., is a big fan of the President and applauds his efforts to solve Social Security's fiscal woes. But, says Tsirigotis, the divorced mother of a 7-year-old, ``I disagree with the idea of giving people private accounts in which their annual returns and their eventual benefits would be based on the stock market. It's too risky. No one knows how much will be there in the end.''
If she wants to invest her personal account in T-Bills she can.While many members of Safety Net Nation have nothing against investing and choice, they're worried that the country's web of public and private social protections is fraying. They believe in more, not fewer, safeguards against downward mobility in a world that's already pulsing with economic uncertainty. Safety Netters include plenty of card-carrying Republicans and independent swing voters, and the group may represent a broader swath of America than the White House imagines.