Jeebus! Just what has Chimpy been smoking?
President Bush insisted Wednesday that public opinion is leaning his way on his proposal for a Social Security overhaul and hinted at political problems for lawmakers who oppose him.
Notwithstanding a host of recent polls showing waning public support for his proposal, Bush cited only the part of the surveys that shows the public is — as it long has been — aware of the program’s long-term fiscal problems. He only implicitly acknowledged the lingering skittishness among congressional Republicans — and outright opposition from most Democrats — for his proposal to allow younger workers to use a part of their Social Security payroll taxes to set up private retirement accounts.
“To answer the question of the skeptics, we do have a serious problem,” Bush said in an interview aired on WMT AM radio here and on WHO NewsRadio in Des Moines. Bush conducted the interview at a local diner, the Spring House Family Restaurant. “Now is the time to fix it,” Bush said, “and I think there is a political price for not getting involved in the process. I think there is a political price for saying, ‘It’s not a problem, I’m going to stay away from the table’.”
Timed to coincide with Bush’s visit, the AARP held a news conference in Cedar Rapids earlier Wednesday to release the results of a national survey showing significant opposition among its membership to Bush’s private accounts plan.
“AARP members not only dislike private accounts … they really dislike them,” said AARP research director Jeff Love, research director for the nation’s leading lobby for elderly citizens.
Other polls have shown that as Bush raises awareness of Social Security’s problems, the support for his private account proposal is dropping. As a result, few in Congress — even among the president’s party — are signing on to the idea.