Baucus not for privatization
WASHINGTON — One reason for a presidential trip to Montana next week could be to turn the heat up under the state’s Democratic senator, Max Baucus, to support a plan to restructure Social Security, political pundits say.
However, during a visit to Helena on Thursday, Baucus said he is ple-ased that the president will stop in Montana but it will make no difference in his attitude about the plan.
“Not at all,” Baucus told The Associated Press when asked if the visit will do Bush any good.
“I’ve been around for a good number of years. Pressure doesn’t mean anything. The question is what’s right. I look at the facts; I call it as I see it — what makes sense for Montana seniors. That’s my job.”
Also, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid picked Baucus to be the Democrats’ lead negotiator on Social Security.
Baucus has been voicing his displeasure with the plan. He is concerned about the estimated $2 trillion cost of partially privatizing Social Security and fears the president’s plan will reduce benefits to future retirees.
Contrary to what the president has said, Social Security is not in crisis but rather faces long-range challenges that need to be addressed, Baucus said.
He’s especially displeased by an idea the White House floated — although it has not yet put in writing — to calculate benefits using a formula based on the rate of inflation instead of the rate of wage increases, which is now used. Since wages historically have exceeded inflation by 1 percent a year, benefits for retirees 50 years from now could, theoretically, be 50 percent lower than they would be under the current formula, according to the AARP retirees group.
“That’s a huge reduction in benefits, recognizing that two-thirds of all Americans depend on their Social Security benefits as their primary source of retirement income and one-fifth depend on it as their only source,” Baucus told Gannett News Service. “That 40 to 50 percent cut would be devastating.”
It’s not very likely that Baucus will back down from his opposition to partially privatizing Social Security, especially now that Reid made him the Democrats’ point man on the issue, said Tom Mann, a scholar at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank.
Good. We know Rehberg isn’t particular enthusiastic about the plan, so we just have to see what Burns thinks.