From the Post's On the Trail blog:
GRESHAM, Ore. Sen. Barack Obama came to a senior citizens center here to discuss the squeeze faced by middle-class retirees and reiterate his longstanding proposal to eliminate income taxes for any senior making less than $50,000 per year.Not much of substance to add here, except a couple quick points:
The proposal came as the Illinois senator continued to focus his intentions not on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival in a Democratic primary contest in Oregon Tuesday, but instead on Republican Sen. John McCain.
Obama has spent the past week seeking to tie McCain to President Bush and foregrounding the differences between Obama's views and McCain's on a range of issues, including foreign policy, rural and farm issues, manufacturing jobs, energy reform and health care.
In an hour-long forum with about 50 seniors, Obama turned his attention to the financial pressures facing those in retirement, which he said is something people are "most worried about."
"That American dream feels like it's slipping away," he said.
The senator laid out a plan to "adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like me pay a little bit more and people in need are protected. That way we can extend the promise of Social Security without shifting the burden onto seniors." He said the plan would include "a donut hole" to make sure that the change did not "ensnare" middle class Americans.
He also suggested eliminating income taxes for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year.
Obama said his approach differed sharply from that of McCain, who "has already said that he supports private accounts for Social Security -- in his words, 'along the lines that President Bush proposed.'"
"Let me be clear: privatizing Social Security was a bad idea when George W. Bush proposed it. It's a bad idea today. It would cost a trillion dollars to implement at the front end, and would put the retirement plans of millions of Americans at risk on a volatile Wall Street," Obama said. "That's why I stood up against this plan in the Senate, and that's why I won't stand for it as president."
Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman, responded to Obama's Oregon remarks this afternoon, saying "Barack Obama's response to our slowing economy is to raise taxes on job creating investment. His response to high gas prices is to raise taxes on oil."
"With his lack of experience, it should be no surprise that Barack Obama's response to the problems facing Social Security is to raise Social Security taxes, while making mis-informed partisan attacks," Bounds said. "His proposal for billions upon billions in tax increases on Social Security is just another example of his weak economic judgment. John McCain has been clear about his belief that we must fix Social Security for future generations and keep our promise to today's retirees, but raising taxes should not be the answer to every problem."
- First, Obama's plan -- even excepting the reduction in income taxes on retirement benefits -- wouldn't come close to saving Social Security. He's still further along than McCain, who hasn't endorsed anything specific yet, though he has stated he'd focus on holding back on benefit growth;
- Second, the question of whether to have personal accounts isn't related to solvency. Rather, it's about how to spread the costs of solvency over time -- accounts, if properly structured, can set aside money today to ease burdens on future generations -- and the costs and benefits of allowing low-income workers to diversify their retirement portfolio to include stocks and bonds.