If you were to ask the highest-profile Republican who ran for US Senate and lost in the most recent round of mid-term elections, she'd tell you that brutal Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had "good ideas."
Sharron Angle's admiration of Pinochet's Chile was known during the campaign, but there was one particular instance, during a private campaign meeting with no press in attendance, where she really let the goods slip.
"Sometimes dictators have good ideas," she said, according to The Las Vegas Sun.
"Her staff fretted the line would get out," the paper noted. "It did not. Until now."
Angle had previously expressed a desire to see Social Security privatized, echoing calls by fellow Republicans who pushed to eliminate the program during President George W. Bush's administration.
Angle said back in August, during the final months of her challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), that she admired Chile's system. Her aids shut down that sort of talk but Raw Story noted at the time that she was stumping for a military dictator's system of compulsory retirement savings accounts.
And just what happened in Chile after the country's public pension system was taken private? Barbara T. Dreyfuss, writing for Mother Jones in April, 2005, explained:
The transition was expensive and funded by slashing government programs, selling off state-owned industries, selling bonds to the new pension funds, and raising taxes. Privatization costs, which also included a government subsidy for workers unable to accumulate enough in their private accounts to guarantee a minimum income in retirement, averaged more than 6 percent of Chile's gross domestic product in the 1980s and are expected to average more than 4 percent of GDP each year until 2037.
The [World Bank] found that exorbitant fees and other costs charged by private pension fund managers eat up as much as 15 percent of the contributions made by average Chilean workers, and even more for poorer workers. Investment returns have been far more modest than the hefty 11 percent return claimed by the private managers. The Chilean government's pension superintendent says actual returns for someone earning Chile's minimum wage were only 3.7 percent between 1994 and 2000.
A recent report by the Chilean government brought more grim news, forecasting that as many as half of all workers won't be able to save enough to receive the minimum pension when they retire even after paying into their accounts for 30 years and will therefore rely on government subsidies. More than 17 percent of Chile's retirees now continue working because they can't afford to live on their pensions, according to that study, and another 7 percent want to work, but can't find jobs.
A system that fails half of the population, says economist Dean Baker, codirector of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, can't claim to have succeeded: "It hasn't provided security to people."
Republicans, including President Bush, were swayed to advocate for the end of Social Security by Pinochet's former labor minister, who has since become one of the world's leading advocates of privatizing pension accounts. After demolishing the nation's political stronghold, he went to work for the conservative-leaning Cato Institute to advocate for compulsory retirement savings accounts.
Angle came very close to defeating the Senate's top Democrat during the November election. The final vote tallies showed her losing 45-50 percent. Her candidacy was a darling of the Republican tea parties, even as mainline Republicans saw her as more of a protest candidate than a potential serious force in the Senate.
Both sides spent over $50 million was spent by both sides to influence voters.