Out of bounds! Obama scares elderly over Social Security

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 22, 2008 

WASHINGTON — Throw the flag against: Barack Obama. Call: Unsportsmanlike conduct. What happened: Obama played the fear card, telling the elderly they'd have lost their Social Security last week had John McCain been president.

"If my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would've had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week," Obama said.

"How do you think that would have made folks feel? Millions would've watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes."

Obama rolled out the incendiary comments in Florida, home to a large retiree population and a crucial battleground state in the election. He trails McCain by nearly 3 percentage points there in an average of recent polls compiled by www.realclearpolitics.com.

Why that's wrong: McCain doesn't propose that the elderly divert their Social Security money into the stock market. He's said that he wants to allow younger workers — not current retirees or those close to it — to divert some of their Social Security taxes into privately managed accounts that could include stocks. He's said that he'd want a plan "along the lines of what President Bush proposed."

Bush said flat out in 2005 that current retirees and those close to retirement wouldn't be included and their benefits would remain exactly as they were now. Only those born after 1950 — 55 or younger at the time of Bush's proposal — would have the option of diverting some of their taxes into private accounts.

In an interview Sunday with CNBC, McCain repeated his support for voluntary private accounts, but said again that they'd be available only to younger people.

"I still believe that young Americans ought to . . . be able to, in a voluntary fashion . . . put some of their money into accounts with their name on it," he said.

Penalty: 15 yards for using a financial crisis to scare the elderly.


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