Monday, January 24, 2005

Crisis in Bush's Social Security plan?

The tide is definitely turning against Bush as several prominent Republicans not only pooh-pooh Bush's "crisis" talk but also question the wisdom of the overall White House strategy. Some are even suggesting that tax increases should not be automatically dismissed!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Key Republicans in Congress on Sunday questioned White House assertions that the Social Security (news - web sites) system was in crisis, one of President Bush (news - web sites)'s justifications for acting now on private accounts, and said new taxes should be considered.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Congress should "look beyond" the payroll tax to fund the Social Security retirement system and consider a value-added tax and other changes.

Though Bush said he will oppose tax increases for Social Security, Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), an Arizona Republican, told CBS's "Face the Nation" that a hike in payroll taxes "has got to be on the table" along with other financing options.

Thomas called the retirement system's finances a "problem" rather than a crisis, distancing himself from the crisis terminology used by the White House in seeking public support for creating private accounts.

"I think 'problem' really is what we're dealing with," said Thomas, when asked if he thought it was a crisis.

In a separate interview, moderate Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record), of Maine, questioned the White House's proposals and strategy, a sign of trouble for Bush in the Senate.

Snowe said she does not object to personal savings accounts "per se," but told CNN: "I'm certainly not going to support diverting $2 trillion from Social Security into creating personal savings accounts." 

A member of the Finance Committee, which will craft any Social Security legislation in the Senate, Snowe complained that the "public discussion thus far, without a specific proposal, has created and enhanced a lot of confusion and fear among seniors."

Methinks Snowe has been getting an earful from constituents on this issue and doesn't appreciate the position her party's leader has put her in.


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