Bush urges work on Social Security

Overhaul `going nowhere' if Congress sees no need

February 18, 2005|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - President Bush declared yesterday that his overhaul of Social Security "is going nowhere" if Congress does not come to share his belief in the urgent need for change. He acknowledged that he has much work to do in convincing lawmakers and the public of the merits of his proposal.

Bush has been traveling the country, trying to persuade voters that the retirement security system needs major changes. But many lawmakers remain leery of tinkering with the popular 70-year-old program.

"This idea is going nowhere if the Congress does not believe there is a problem," Bush said at a White House news conference.

Lawmakers have expressed concern that the public does not believe there is a crisis and is not prepared to embrace Bush's plan for private investment accounts. In the Senate, several Republicans have suggested spending the year studying the issue, leaving any legislative action until 2006.

Bush has proposed allowing voters to take part of their Social Security taxes and invest them in private stock and bond accounts. Democrats say that could undermine the traditional Social Security program and would not address concerns about its solvency once the baby boom generation retires.

Democrats are waging their own public relations campaign to persuade voters and lawmakers not to support Bush's plan.

Republicans "are running away from privatization," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. "Now they are calling it `personal accounts.' They can soften the language, but it doesn't soften the blow to America's seniors, survivors and people with disabilities."

"I agree you can't cram an issue down people's throats," Bush said yesterday. "The best way to get this issue addressed in the halls of Congress is for the American people to say, `Why don't we come together and do something?'"

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave Bush's idea for private accounts a muted endorsement yesterday as he testified before the House Banking Committee.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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