DELAY CRITICIZES AARP ON ITS SOCIAL SECURITY STANCE - Mitch Perry

03/02/05

Republicans attacked the AARP as well as congressional Democrats today as they struggled to build momentum behind President Bush's call for personal investment accounts under Social Security.

The AARP, which claims 35 million members age 50 and over, is "against a solution that hasn't been written yet," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay after a closed-door meeting with the GOP rank and file.

He called the group's opposition to personal accounts irresponsible and hypothetical, adding that it sells mutual funds to its own membership.

DeLay and Speaker Dennis Hastert also criticized congressional Democrats, who are virtually united in opposition to Bush's plans.

Republicans unleashed their latest attack as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan urged Congress to act quickly to fix looming financing problems for Social Security as well as Medicare. (roll tape#1o.q.�on those choices�)

As he has before, Greenspan endorsed a key element of Bush's plans for Social Security, a proposal that would allow workers to set aside a portion of their payroll taxes to be invested on their own. But he stressed that much more needed to be done to put the giant retirement program and Medicare, which he said faced even more severe financial strains, on a more sound footing.

In his prepared testimony, Greenspan did not repeat the cautionary message he sent last month: Creation of the accounts should be done slowly to gauge the impact on financial markets of the increased borrowing that will be needed.

Hastert and DeLay talked with reporters after meeting with lawmakers just back from a week spent sampling public opinion on Social Security. DeLay said the session produced "not one negative comment by the members."

Further indication that the President’s plans to reform Social Security are in trouble surfaced yesterday, when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the proposal might have to wait until next year….Aides say Frist is reluctant to put off a vote until 2006, when lawmakers will be focused on midterm congressional elections and the atmosphere will be more politically charged…But the Washington Post reported today – with polls showing widespread skepticism of Bush’s proposal and some Republicans opposed to the approach, GOP leaders are signaling they may have no choice BUT to put off action.

Frist’s comments came as lawmakers returned from a week-long break during which many held town-hall meetings to discuss the President’s Social Security plan…Some Republians were shocked by the intensity of the opposition expressed…..

Phil Compton is with the Florida Action Consumer Network in Tampa…His group participated in several town hall meetings last week, advocating opposition to privatizing social security (roll tape#1 o.q.�Against the President’s plan�)

In another sign of the difficulty in selling the package that Bush has outlined, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa said in a radio interview yesterday that he thinks workers should be able to divert only about half as much in payroll taxes to new personal investment accounts as the White House has suggested.

Under Bush’s proposal, workers younger than 55 who opt to participate in the program would be able to divert as much as 4 percent of income subject to Social Security taxation into individual accounts, beginning in 2009.

Grassley told Diane Rehm on NPR that under a restructured Social Security, young people are “going to be able to take maybe 2 percent, in my estimation…and start saving for retirement.�

Just a month after the President spoke extensively about his chief domestic plan at his State of the Union Address, clearly the Democrats are winning the PR war…But FCAN�S Phil Compton in Baltimore with other groups discussing strategy in combating the President’s plan - says it’s way too early to think the battle is over (roll tape#2 o.q.�for 70 years�)

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