Obama Hits McCain on Social Security

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. greets supporters outside Schott Glass in Duryea, Pa., Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
By  | 

NEWARK, N.J. - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama criticized Republican John McCain's approach to Social Security on Saturday, saying it would undermine the government program aimed mainly at retirees.

Obama said McCain's campaign has suggested trimming Social Security benefits and raising the eligibility age, according to prepared remarks of his speech to a gathering of the AARP. Obama was addressing the group via satellite.

McCain has not specifically embraced such plans. But by saying "everything is on the table" in discussing changes to Social Security, he has opened himself to such criticisms from Democrats.

Obama also said McCain wants to privatize a portion of Social Security. McCain has praised the notion of letting younger workers place a portion of their Social Security taxes into a package that is invested and follows them to retirement, but he has not made it a campaign promise.

All workers pay Social Security payroll taxes on the first $102,000 of their annual income. The money pays for benefits for current retirees and for other government programs. Analysts say the program will begin running short of funds in a few decades if it is not changed.

Obama cited his proposals to place a new Social Security payroll tax on incomes above $250,000 and to eliminate federal income taxes for older people making less than $50,000 a year. He also said he would "allow the government to negotiate with drug companies to lower costs for seniors, and we'll allow reimportation of drugs from other countries and ensure their safety."

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that McCain's top aides were "considering cost-of-living adjustment cuts and raising the retirement age as part of their Social Security plan." McCain has not endorsed or rejected those ideas.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said the Republican nominee "has always promised to fiercely protect Social Security benefits."