Monday, February 07, 2005

Birth of a Salesman: Pitching Social Security (washingtonpost.com)

Birth of a Salesman: Pitching Social Security (washingtonpost.com)

Great article highlighting Bush's techniques to sell his Social Security privatization scheme:

1 - "Sell urgency!

Crisis looms for Social Security, Bush says. By 2042, the system would go "flat bust" if no action is taken. "And if we wait, it gets worse," he says in Omaha on Friday."

2 - "Build rapport, be polite!

Politeness doesn't necessarily sell, but the lack of it can kill a deal. The president is a prodigious thanker. In Fargo on Thursday, he thanks everyone at the Bison Center for comin' (droppin' more g's than he does in Washington). He thanks his hosts at North Dakota State University, thanks the governor, congratulates North Dakota State's women's basketball team for bein' unbeaten. Wherever he goes, Laura sends her best."

3 - "Use visuals (including yourself)!

At each event, Bush stands in front of a big chart describing the "Demographics of Social Security." In 1950, there were 16 workers paying for one beneficiary, the chart says. Today there are 3.3. It displays in stark terms what Bush calls "the math," or "the problem." He used to call it a "crisis," but he rarely uses the term anymore."

4 - "Use humor!

Bush is eager to crack wise. While the president might be warning of a grave national crisis, he's being a laugh-riot about it. Bush loves joking about how he "married up," how he's "gettin' all gray" and how he goofed off in college. In Little Rock Friday, Bush was joined onstage by Gloria Bennett, a part-time food inspector from DeQueen, Ark.

To which Bush says, "That's right next to DeKing."

Silence is followed by friendly groans that evolve into laughter and applause. And a message endures: Reforming Social Security can be fun."

5 - "Stay positive!

The president keeps mentioning "the problem" that awaits Social Security. But he rarely addresses it in terms of sacrifices and costs. Only "challenges," "opportunities" and "confronting problems," all staples of the sales parlance."

6 - "Use your audience!

At each event, Bush hold his "conversations" with four handpicked panelists. They are props for Bush to exhibit rapport and illustrate how his ideas on Social Security affect their demographic."

Here is my favorite part...where Bush says it's wonderful that a divorced single mother has a mentally challenged son and supports her family by working 3 jobs. It's so "uniquely American". Makes one almost think that he wasn't listening to her and doesn't care to.

"Bush's fast-moving manner can make his listening skills appear suspect, Lahkani says. This point is bolstered during Bush's onstage "conversations."

In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."

"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems "uniquely American" and "fantastic." He asks her if she gets any sleep."

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