News

    Bush And Democrats Prepare To Battle Over Pension Reform

    Multimedia

    Audio

    President Bush used his State of the Union address Wednesday to launch what may be the most ambitious proposal of his presidency, the revamping of the government pension system known as Social Security.

    The president has made Social Security reform the top priority in his second term. Social Security is the government pension program that pays out monthly retirement and disability benefits to more than 47 million Americans.

    Mr. Bush used the State of the Union address to make the case that without changes, Social Security will begin going bankrupt in just 13 years.

    "I know that none of these reforms would be easy," said President Bush. "But we have to move ahead with courage and honesty because our children's retirement security is more important than partisan politics."

    At the heart of the president's plan to save Social Security is a proposal to allow younger workers the option of diverting some of the taxes levied to fund Social Security into private retirement accounts that could earn a higher rate of return.

    But that is where opposition Democrats have focused their criticism, calling the idea a risky attempt to alter one of the most popular government programs in U.S. history.

    Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was one of two Democrats who gave the party's official response to the president's State of the Union speech.

    "The Bush plan is not really Social Security reform," said Senator Reid. "It is more like Social Security roulette. Democrats are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings. But that does not mean taking Social Security's guarantee and gambling with it."

    Some public opinion polls taken in the aftermath of the president's address suggest he may have had some success in building public support for Social Security reform.

    Among those impressed was this caller on the C-SPAN public affairs network.

    "I believe that this problem can be solved," she said. "I have always been for some sort of privatizing."

    Proposing changes to the popular Social Security program has proven politically risky in the past and even some Republicans are urging the president to do more to reach out for Democratic support.

    This is Republican Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio.

    "We cannot pass a Social Security bill unless it is a bipartisan bill," said Mike DeWine. "We have to have both parties, Republicans and Democrats, to come forward and begin the debate."

    But before Democrats will join with the president, they first have to be convinced that Social Security is headed for a crisis.

    Some Democrats believe the Bush administration is overstating the future threat to Social Security. They cite a new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that offers a more optimistic view of the program's financial health.

    New York Congressman Gary Ackerman noted many of his fellow Democrats were vocal opponents during the president's speech.

    "I saw something in the course of the speech from the members of Congress that I have not seen before in 22 years of watching these [speeches] as a member of Congress," said Gary Ackerman. "And that was that the Democrats actually were booing."

    Given the Democratic opposition and even some nervousness among Republicans, many political analysts are predicting a tough political battle ahead as the president tries to move his Social Security plan through the Congress.

    Thomas Mann is a close observer of Washington politics at the Brookings Institution.

    "Well, I do not think he [the president] has many advantages," said Thomas Mann. "It is a tall order to reshape the most popular federal program in American history. It is also the case that our problems in health care costs are much more substantial than the Social Security shortfall. And many believe he ought to be focusing his attention there."

    Complicating the president's push for Social Security reform is the historical trend that presidents tend to lose some of their political leverage near the end of their second terms.

    Patrick Basham is with the Cato Institute in Washington. He says the next year or so will largely determine how successful Mr. Bush will be in making Social Security reform the centerpiece of his presidential legacy.

    "And I think actually the first year of his second term is going to be the critical one," said Patrick Basham. "We are going to see a lot of activity and if he is to be successful, if he is to have that legacy down the road, I think it will be decided in 2005 rather than in 2007 or 2008."

    The president insists he is up to the challenge, noting that he ran twice for the White House on a promise of reforming Social Security and won both times.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.