The US Public Pension System in Presidential Campaign Discourse, 2016
This paper examines the US public pension system - its current status, achievements, problems and possible futures - through the prism of the 2016 Presidential campaign. Its main source of information is political discourse during state primary elections and caucuses held by the Democratic and Republican parties in the months preceding their nomination of Presidential candidates. These events create a lively marketplace of ideas in which contenders for their party's nomination compete for the support of voters, organizations, and donors, who in turn seek to influence the contenders' platforms. In this election year, the range of contender posi-tions on public pensions is unusually wide and they have assigned different priorities to improving pension adequacy, restructuring the system to address new needs, establishing long-term financial balance, and who should bear the cost of the latter. The paper examines their discourse in three parts. Following the introduction, part I describes the US public pen-sion system and Americans' attitudes toward it. Part II presents the contenders' positions on pensions, including those to improve, maintain, and cut benefits. Included here is discussion of their approaches to pension finance as well. Part III highlights patterns in the contenders' views, considers how they would alter US pension principles and practices, and ends with some thoughts on policymaking after the election. (original abstract)
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