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    President Bush Campaigns for Pension Reform

    George Bush

    President Bush is continuing to campaign for the biggest domestic item on his second-term agenda, reforming America's pension system. Public opinion polls show the president's plan losing support.

    President Bush is back on the road this coming week, pushing for changes in the federal retirement plan, known as Social Security.

    It's a continuing campaign to rally public and Congressional support for the president's ideas, after a tour by administration officials to 60 cities in 60 days failed to build much momentum. Since the president began talking about the issue in February, public opinion polls show support for changing the popular 70-year-old system is falling.

    With fewer American workers supporting more and more retirees who are living longer, the Bush administration says, Social Security will start paying out more than it is taking in by 2018. As part of the solution, the president wants younger workers to be able to invest part of their Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market.

    "These accounts would provide the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return than the current system can offer," said president Bush. "Personal accounts would contribute to the economic security of Americans by allowing them to build up a real nest-egg, something they own and can pass on to their spouse or children, and that government cannot take away."

    In his weekly radio address, the president said that he will remind younger workers that, without changes like private investment accounts, Social Security may not be sound when they need it.

    Congressional Democrats say it is younger workers who should fear private accounts, because they could lose much of their retirement in the uncertainties of financial markets.

    The president's plan also faces opposition from some within his own party - fiscally conservative Republicans who object to the upfront expense of shifting to private accounts.

    This Thursday and Friday, President Bush will talk about changes to the federal health care program, specifically a controversial prescription drug plan for older Americans.

    In the Democratic radio address Saturday, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said it is time to start all over with the plan, known as Medicaid, to better focus on most-needed medications and procedures.

    "Let's scrap the old, inefficient version of Medicaid that's led us to spend more and more of our finite resources on a system that never yielded the kind of public health results we had hoped for," said Phil Bredesen. "Uncontrolled growth in the cost of Medicaid is a crisis that's forcing states to choose between quality health care on one hand and a quality education for our children on the other."

    The cost of initiating the president's new drug benefit plan is now estimated to be $724 billion over 10 years. That's almost double what the White House told Congress two years ago when the legislation passed.

     

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