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Bush Proposes Increase in Military Death Benefits


President Bush says his fiscal year 2006 budget will give the U.S. military all the tools it needs for victory against terrorism. Mr. Bush says the plan will substantially increase military death benefits. Defense officials say the payments will be raised to $250,000, and back-dated to include the families of those killed since the start of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.

President Bush used his weekly radio address to outline some of his budget plans, and to recap the past week's State of the Union address.

He said recent elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Ukraine, and Iraq show what he calls freedom's gathering momentum. "The whole world can now see that the assassins and car-bombers are doomed to fail, because they are fighting the desire of the Iraqi people to live in freedom. And when Iraq is democratic, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself, our nation will be safer, and our troops will return home with the honor they have earned," he said.

President Bush says his budget proposal will hold the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, make his record tax relief permanent, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

He is also continuing to push for changes to the federal pension plan, known as Social Security. Mr. Bush wants to allow younger workers to invest a small portion of their Social Security taxes in private accounts to earn a higher rate of return in financial markets than is currently being earned in the federal program.

Congressional Democrats say the president's plan would reduce benefits for older Americans and threaten the retirements of younger workers, who could lose money in the uncertainties of financial markets.

In the Democratic radio address, outgoing party chairman Terry McAuliffe said the president's plan would cut benefits for future retirees by nearly half, regardless of private investment accounts. "And here's the worst part. Even after all those cuts and massive borrowing, private accounts would actually do nothing to help save Social Security. Don't take my word for it. Bush's own White House admitted that this week. In fact, private accounts would actually speed the insolvency of the program. Benefit cuts, massive debt, and more insecurity are not the type of drastic changes we need to make to our nation's retirement security," he said.

Mr. McAuliffe says Democrats agree the program faces problems down the road, but he says the nation has time to do it right.

President Bush says it is time to act now before, he says the program begins paying out more than it is taking in by 2018.

Mr. Bush says his plan protects older Americans by ensuring that all benefits remain the same for everyone born before 1950. For those born after that date, voluntary investments would be restricted to a financial conservative mix of bonds and mutual funds.

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