Matthews and crew pushed Bush administration's terminology on Social Security privatization


On the February 2 edition of MSNBC's Hardball preceding President Bush's State of the Union address, host Chris Matthews adopted President Bush's preferred terminology for his plans to partially privatize Social Security by referring* to "personal accounts," rather than "private accounts" or "privatization." After stumbling on the previous evening's Hardball and acquiescing to the Bush administration's pressure on the media to abandon the term "private accounts" in favor of "personal accounts," Matthews spoke again of "personal accounts" on at least four separate occasions, and NBC White House correspondent David Gregory also used the term. Later, Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman stated that Democrats "refuse to call it 'personal accounts' -- for them it's always 'private accounts.'"

But Republicans used to call their plans to privatize Social Security "privatization" and "private accounts," too. As Washington Post staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and Jim VandeHei reminded Bush in a January 15 interview, he too previously referred to his administration's Social Security plans as "partial privatization." And "privatize" was also the word of choice for the Cato Institute, one of the leading advocates of privatization, when it launched its "Project on Social Security Privatization" in 1995. Cato has since changed the name of its plan to the "Project on Social Security Choice," as The Washington Post noted. The Columbia Journalism Review's CJR Daily observed on January 25 that "both Republicans and Democrats are aware that the phrase 'personal accounts' polls better than the phrase 'private accounts.'"

*Correction: When this item was first published, it incorrectly stated that Matthews "exclusively" referred to "personal accounts." In fact, Matthews referred to "personal accounts" five times on Hardball and "private accounts" twice. In one of those instances, Matthews referred to "private accounts" in describing the terminology used by the Democrats' "politics of fear." Matthews referred exclusively to "personal accounts" in his post-State of the Union coverage.

Posted In
Economy, Social Security
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