WASHINGTON (Talon News) — Last week, President Bush vowed to take the debate over Social Security reform to the American people. Following his upcoming State of the Union address, the president will begin a five-state tour to explain his plan to salvage the failing system that includes allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax contributions into personal investment accounts.
Bush made the pledge during a press conference Wednesday when he told Talon News, “Right after my State of the Union, I’m going to four or five states to continue to address this issue. You know, I can remember President Clinton doing the same thing on Social Security. I thought he was very effective in teeing up the issue, of making the case. And I will do the same thing.”
The president will visit states that he carried in 2004 that have Democratic senators, some of whom will face reelection in 2006. Those senators are viewed to be moderate and most likely to cross party lines to pass a bill strongly opposed by Democratic leadership.
Bush has been shoring up his own congressional base, meeting last Friday at a bicameral retreat in West Virginia. Bush and his chief political advisor, Karl Rove, hoped to persuade members not to retreat from the issue because of assumed political peril.
But the issue has served to unite Democrats and their traditional allies to oppose any change to a system they deny is in trouble. Labor unions and the AARP have already joined them in rejecting any consideration of modifying Social Security to head off future bankruptcy.
MoveOn.org, the liberal 527 that tried to defeat Bush in 2004, is targeting House members it considers vulnerable on the issue of Social Security. The group is planning to spend $500,000 to broadcast an ad that it features on its web site in key congressional districts following the president’s speech on Wednesday.
The group claims that Bush plans to cut benefits in order to pay for private accounts. The 527 group is also organizing for the 2006 elections, hoping to “convert the passion and energy of the progressive movement into power on the ground” in order to help Democrats take control of the Congress.
The Republican National Committee is calling on the 527 group to remove the ad from its web site and cancel plans to air it on television. It urged Democratic leaders to repudiate the ad and work with the President to fix Social Security.
A statement from the RNC said, “MoveOn.org and the Democrats are shamefully meeting President Bush’s bipartisan effort to strengthen Social Security with fear-mongering and scare tactics. It is as unsurprising as it is sad that the group that produced an ad last year desecrating the Statue of Liberty would produce an attack ad this year attempting to scare seniors rather than promote an honest discussion about preserving Social Security.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for remarks she made at the National Press Club on Monday. Communications Director Carl Forti characterized her comments as “typical, Democrat-style Social Security politics-as-usual.”
Forti added, “While Democrats constantly revive their scare tactic approach to Social Security reform, they rarely revise it. The bottom line? The Democrats’ M.O. is to shirk their responsibility as problem-solvers and dive into their role as politicians. Instead of working toward a viable Social Security solution, we already see them working to exacerbate the problem for political gain. Nancy Pelosi wants to be Speaker so badly that she’s willing to stake the retirement security of millions of young American workers on it. And that’s sad.”
He called Pelosi’s statements about the future of the system outlandish and challenged her rhetoric. Where she said that Republicans wanted to replace “a guaranteed benefit with a guaranteed gamble,” he pointed out that personal retirement accounts plan will be completely voluntary and that there would be no benefit cuts for retirees or near retirees.
Forti chided the Democratic leader for the figures that she used since no plan has yet been advanced that would allow her to extrapolate any meaningful numbers. He believes that Pelosi’s pledge to make Social Security an issue in the 2006 campaign indicates that the Democrats are unwilling to work with the Republican majority to solve the problem and simply want to try to achieve political advantage with scare-tactics.