Gore to Challenge Bush's Social Security, Tax Proposals

By Lambro, Donald | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 17, 2000 | Go to article overview

Gore to Challenge Bush's Social Security, Tax Proposals


Lambro, Donald, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


LOS ANGELES - Al Gore, in the most important speech of his career, will explain his opposition in greater detail tonight to the two biggest proposals in rival George W. Bush's agenda: partially privatizing Social Security and cutting income-tax rates for everyone.

Mr. Gore has relentlessly attacked Mr. Bush's tax-cut proposals as "a risky scheme" that would undermine Social Security, squander the budget surpluses and reignite the federal budget deficits.

But his high-caliber political offensive tonight in a nationally televised address to the Democratic convention here carries a number of risks, too, for himself and his party.

The vice president initiated a full-scale attack on Mr. Bush's proposal to create private Social Security investment retirement accounts shortly after both men had clinched their nominations in the presidential primaries.

The attack was based on the "third rail" axiom in American politics that anyone who dares to propose fundamental change in the venerable New Deal-era program will be fatally burned by the voters.

But to the surprise of veteran political strategists, Mr. Gore's attacks had no effect on Mr. Bush, who pledged that no one on Social Security or planning to receive Social Security would lose any promised benefits - dismissing the attacks as nothing more than "playing on the fears of the elderly."

Perhaps the biggest factor that has worked to Mr. Bush's advantage is that the country has a dramatically different economic environment, in which more than 100 million Americans are part of what has come to be called "the investor class" through their 401(k) retirement plans at work, personally owned mutual funds or other investment plans.

Moreover, numerous studies by the investment industry show that the growth in investing cuts across all racial and economic lines, from lower-income groups through the middle class to upper-income Americans. Polls show that Mr. Bush's idea is politically popular as well.

Surveys conducted for the Democratic Leadership Council by Mark Penn, President Clinton's pollster, show that even a majority of Democrats like the idea of controlling their own Social Security investment accounts.

The DLC, to which Mr. Gore belongs, also has long maintained that investing in the stock market has to be a part of any long-term reform to save Social Security from bankruptcy when millions of baby boomers will demand benefits in the years to come.

At the same time, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mr. Gore's running mate and chairman of the DLC, for several years has been promoting personal Social Security accounts not unlike what Mr. Bush has proposed.

Last week, after he was picked for the ticket's vice-presidential slot, Mr. …

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Gore to Challenge Bush's Social Security, Tax Proposals
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