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May 14, 2002
Avoiding the P-word on Social Security
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ublicans in Congress are concerned about being associated with some proposed changes in Social Security, even though President Bush made an overhaul of the program a centerpiece of his 2000 campaign.

The Washington Post reports that some Republican consultants are urging their candidates to avoid using the word "privatization" - which is at the heart of Bush's plan - and to challenge their opponents to be specific about how they would keep the system solvent without embracing changes of some sort.

Republican congressional leaders are going so far as to draft plans for a House vote against "privatizing" the system. The strategy: insulate themselves from voter anger without directly repudiating the president's proposal to allow private investments of some, but not all, Social Security contributions.

Bush's proposal generally is described as a "partial privatization" of Social Security. The House Republicans' plan, if carried out, would let lawmakers go on record as opposing complete privatization - a deliberate exaggeration of what Bush proposed - so they can say in campaign ads they oppose the idea and perhaps even sue opponents who accuse them of it.

Though several Republican leaders support the proposed resolution, a decision has not been made, according to the Post.

Democrats are crying fraud, and many seem determined to highlight the issue in the November elections, according to the Post.

Bush wants to allow younger workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, which might include stocks and bonds.

Democrats say that would subject future benefits to the whims of Wall Street, which they consider an unacceptable risk.

Republican lawmakers, facing a fall election with control of the House and Senate in question, urged the White House months ago not to press for a vote on the issue this year. The administration agreed, and many assumed the matter was quiet for a while.

But a nationwide series of polls and focus groups about Social Security has convinced Republicans that they remain vulnerable to accusations that they have, as one top Democrat put it, "a secret plan to cut benefits after the election."

To read the Washington Post article, click here.




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