Party Leaders Spar over Social Security - - Jackson, MS

Jackson 08/07/08

Party Leaders Spar over Social Security

By Jon Kalahar

Keeping social security stable in this ever volatile economy will be a big chore for whoever is elected the next president. But state Democrats say John McCain's plan is to privatize Social Security in the United States, resulting in thousands of Mississippi senior citizens dropping below poverty.

It is an election year trick or the truth?

It's been almost 15 years since a stroke left Suzette Matheny partially paralyzed. The retired teacher settled at a Jackson retirement center after Hurricane Katrina. Matheny now draws a thousand dollars a month in social security.

"This is my sole source of income," she says. "If it's taken away from me in my physical condition and at my age, I could not be able to support myself."

But state Democrats say that's exactly what could happen if McCain is elected instead of Barack Obama.

"Buying groceries, paying bills and filling up their gas tanks would become an unbearable struggle if McCain has his way with Social Security," said Democrat Barbara Blackmon, a former state senator.

McCain did stand with President Bush when the president offered a privatization plan. That plan would have created personal accounts for workers to put a portion of their payroll tax in stocks of their choosing. But it lost steam after a Wall Street downturn.

State republican chairman-elect Brad White says McCain has offered no such plan as he runs for the White House.

"To hear the Democrats talk, you would think John McCain is saying, 'When I become president I'm issuing an edict,' and all the people on social security all of a sudden are going to quit getting their checks," said White.

Both sides accuses the other party of scare tactics.

"Senator McCain has fallen in line behind President George W. Bush and other Republicans who seem intent on trying to scare and frighten people," said Blackmon.

"They've gone from the party whose leader use to say all we have to fear is fear itself, to a party of all we have to offer is fear," said White.

Obama says he favors increasing the cap on Americans who pay into social security.

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