Despite all the feigned handwringing by his GOP presidential opponents, Texas Gov. Rick Perry's favorite descriptive phrase for the troubled Social Security system as a "Ponzi scheme" isn't really bothering fellow Republicans at all.
A Ponzi scheme is an eventually doomed plan where people pay money in and then get it out with dividends. But all the money paid out is coming, not from any actual investments, but simply from more gullible people putting their money in. The scheme is eventually doomed, of course, because inevitably the latest Charles Ponzi runs out of gullible newcomers with money.
Sounds a lot like Social Security to many non-Democrats, including Perry, who's 61. Let's see, Social Security involves a dwindling number of younger Americans paying some of every paycheck into government's Social Security as a growing number of healthier Baby Boom seniors draw the money out while declining to die in time to keep the system's fiscal merry-go-round going around.
The eminent Charles Krauthammer says, in fact, the only difference between the two schemes is that Social Security is mandatory.
Mitt Romney, who seems to have enough money to run his own private Social Security system, says Perry's Ponzi scheme phrase is "over the top" of something.
And Romney worries that his stubborn Texas opponent (Did you know he might be a career politician?) could be scaring seniors sufficiently to spill their Ensure over carefully clipped grocery coupons.
But there's a problem with that convenient concern: "Ponzi scheme" is a political wash. A new Gallup Poll out this morning documents this lack of concern; outside the media it's a major non-issue among those folks who'll be picking the Republican to watch the inaugural parade on Jan. 20, 2013.
Nineteen percent of Republicans say the Ponzi hoo-hah makes them less likely to support Perry and 19% of Republicans say it makes them more likely to support the guy in boots. Nearly a quarter (24%) say it matters not. And 38% are too dumb or uninterested to have an opinion.
Now, if Perry makes it through the next 11 months of rhetorical jousting and money-raising and comes out as the party's nominee and hasn't already convinced people that Social Security is a swell thing that can be fixed, then he might have a problem.
Right now, 32% of those crucial independents say the Ponzi business makes them less likely to like Perry; 12% support his talk. And nearly a quarter (21%) say No Difference. (Another 36% are dummies.)
But, there's so much to happen in the next four months, let alone 11. And look! Even so, Perry remains the sudden GOP frontrunner talking Texas-straight. For him to trim his Ponzi sails now is like those other Texans, the Dallas Cowboys, fretting over their Thanksgiving game scheduled for next year.
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-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Steve Helber / Associated Press (Perry speaks in Virginia, Sept. 14).