WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe accused a House Republican of linking Social Security benefits to race and gender in comments made on a Sunday morning talk show.

McAuliffe, who is nearing the end of his term as DNC chairman, asked Democratic supporters in an e-mail on Monday, “Do you believe that the amount of a person’s Social Security check should be tied to the color of that person’s skin?”

“Of course not,” McAuliffe replied to his own question.

Pointing his finger at Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), who serves as Social Security Subcommittee Chairman in the U.S. House, and comments Thomas made on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, McAuliffe said, “The Republican Party’s point man on Social Security in the House is strongly recommending consideration of … linking Social Security benefits to a person’s race — or even gender.”

“Meet the Press” host Tim Russert asked Thomas about some comments he made regarding adjusting Social Security for gender.

“Women are living longer relative to men today than they were in 1940,” Russert quoted Thomas as saying. “Yet, we never ever have debated gender-adjusting Social Security.”

Russert continued quoting Thomas, “But, at some point if the age difference continues to separate and more women are in the workforce and you have more of an equality of pay structure in the workforce, at some point somebody might want to suggest that we need to take a look at the question of whether or not actuarially we ought to adjust who gets what, when, and how.”

Russert asked Thomas what the “gender adjustment” means.

“Well, it was one of my ways of getting people to focus on the issue of age,” Thomas exclaimed to Russert. “To move from 65 to 68, which we did in 1983, was a benefit cut.”

Thomas added, “We also need to examine, frankly, Tim, the question of race in terms of how many years of retirement do you get based upon your race? And you ought not to just leave gender off the table because that would be a factor.”

Russert questioned Thomas about whether women would receive less benefits because they “live longer” than men.

“It’s not that you would do it; it’s something that you need to look at,” Thomas retorted. “Because if you extend the age beyond 78, if you go to 80 or 82, all of those concerns about race, occupation and gender are exacerbated.”

Thomas continued, “My goal is to get it as broad as possible, look for bipartisan support and give the president a bill on his desk that he can sign that addresses the real societal inequities that we have with seniors.”

Russert inquired, “Do you think Congress, Mr. Chairman, would accept any formula that said that people would be treated differently because of their gender or their race?”

“If we discuss it and the will is not to do it, fine. At least we discussed it,” Thomas expressed. “To simply raise the age and find out that you’ve got gender, race and occupational problems later, I would not be doing the kind of service that I think I have to do.”

Thomas concluded, “We saw the choices that were made in the past. We went to the well over and over again with the same old solutions which really aren’t solutions. We’ve reached the point where we have to fundamentally examine it in my opinion. The president has given us that opportunity. We ought to take it.”

Because of Thomas’ comments on Social Security, a new “Equality and Social Security” petition to combat this idea has been launched by the DNC. McAuliffe said he is used to seeing “ill-conceived, dangerous ideas about Social Security.”

“But no idea is more dangerous or patently unfair than linking Social Security benefits to a person’s race and gender,” McAuliffe retorted.

McAuliffe said he disagrees with most of the Social Security reforms proposed by President George W. Bush, but he is appalled that a prominent Republican would advocate “linking the amount of a Social Security benefit check to the race or gender of the person receiving it.”

“Please sign our petition today and join the Democratic Party in demanding that President Bush immediately and unequivocally disavow Chairman Thomas’ dangerous and offensive suggestion,” McAuliffe exclaimed, pointing Democrat supporters to their web site.

The petition to Bush from the DNC asks the president to “disavow this disastrous idea” and to “tell Chairman Thomas and your other Republican allies that you will refuse to sign any bill tying Social Security benefits to race or gender.”

Characterizing this latest plan to reform Social Security as devious, McAuliffe accused Republicans of destroying “one of the core programs at the heart of the American dream” with “their radical campaign to dismantle Social Security.”

“If the president and other Republican leaders fail to act, we’ll know that there are no limits to the tactics they’ll use,” McAuliffe commented.

Chastising Bush for being the “main architect of a Social Security scare campaign designed to convince the American people that Social Security is in imminent danger,” McAuliffe responded by claiming “the Social Security system has the resources to keep paying benefits for decades to come — and there is absolutely no need for Bush’s radical approach.”

“Their aim is to tear the Social Security program apart by privatizing it,” McAuliffe accused. “If they get their way, Social Security will be transformed from a sacred promise to a stock market gamble. And American taxpayers will be hit with the trillion dollar price tag for Bush’s radical privatization plan.”

Interestingly, though, McAuliffe’s old boss, former Democratic President Bill Clinton, addressed the problems in Social Security in comments he made during his second term in office.

“[I]f you don’t do anything [with Social Security], one of two things will happen,” Clinton said in remarks at Georgetown University on February 9, 1998. “Either it will go broke and you won’t ever get it, or if we wait too long to fix it, the burden on society … of taking care of our generation’s Social Security obligations will lower your income and lower your ability to take care of your children to a degree that most of us who are parents think would be horribly wrong and unfair to you and unfair to the future prospects of the United States.”

Clinton added in other comments that it would be “unconscionable if we failed to act, and act now” on Social Security reform so we can “save Social Security for the 21st Century.”

Furthermore, most Americans realize there is a problem with Social Security according to the latest opinion polls.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,007 adults conducted from January 13-17 found that 90 percent of Americans believe Social Security is either “in crisis” or “in trouble.” The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

And a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that more than seven in ten Americans view Social Security as being in a “state of crisis” or “has major problems.” This poll of 1,008 adults was conducted from January 7-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Boasting that Democrats are “ready, willing, and able to protect Social Security in a spirited public debate,” McAuliffe said it must begin with “every political leader in America” distancing themselves from Thomas’s “reprehensible idea of linking the size of someone’s benefits to that person’s race or gender.”

“Join in supporting our campaign to protect Social Security from Republican efforts to dismantle it,” McAuliffe inquired. “It’s going to take all the grassroots power we can muster to win this monumental struggle over the future of Social Security.”

He concluded, “It seems as if every day, another Republican comes forward with a new idea for weakening Social Security. They’ve opposed Social Security from the start and they have made it clear that, in 2005, they will stop at nothing in their effort to dismantle this remarkable social achievement that has kept generations of America’s seniors out of poverty. We will never let them win.”

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