Delores McCain asks Westsiders at Westside Association for Community Action, 3525 W. Ogden Ave.:

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Delores McCain

What do you think of President Bush's proposed Social Security changes? Would you like to have the option of investing some of your funds?

Wilbert Bledsoe (North Lawndale News): "I think that Pres. Bush's plan is not a very good plan because if you start investing your funds into the stock market, then there is a great chance of losing those funds. Social Security was set up to provide a guaranteed retirement benefit. If it goes into anything other than guaranteed retirement benefit?"stock market or mutual funds?"then it is no longer guaranteed. It is a greater risk than what you actually would not save in Social Security. It would cost more money."

Michael Fountain (SBC Government Relations director): "I think the burden of proof is on the President to justify any of his claims that Social Security is going to be bankrupt, and it's going to be a problem for us at some point in the future. Planning for the future right now is very important, but just like the war in Iraq, I'm a citizen who needs proof before I start having an opinion that this is the way to go. The president has demonstrated a patented inability to prove the things he's trying to do. He's trying to justify the things he's trying to do. Why not fix medical coverage for everyone first?"

Calvin Giles (State Rep. - 8th District): "I feel that this is a tragedy for a president to bring forth such an initiative that is going to affect me and all American lives who have worked hard all their lives, who are waiting to live out the American dream, to be able to provide for themselves and their family after giving their all to this country. And to have their sole basis of income threatened by making such a proposal to have the Social Security funds invested into the stock market, which is volatile. We know that the market crashes; we know that there are also some games that are played. Of course, I think Mr. Bush once again has been ill-informed. I think his point of view is not realistic. If he would talk to the real Americans that will be affected by those changes he will see a totally different statistic. I think the individuals he's talking about are young individuals who have had privileged lives, who want to have some massive capital in which they can play around with the stock market and become these new Internet millionaires, and be able to do it with this large sum of money. But for the mass of Americans, like you and I, we rely on Social Security. My mother relies on it, I rely on it, and I want my offspring to rely on it?"the younger generation. So I think we can definitely come up with more creative ways to address the problem."

Art Turner (State Rep. - 9th District): "Let me say off the top, I say that I think his changes need a lot of work. Sounds great, but when you look at what is going on in today's market, when you look at today's interest rates, when you're talking about people making investments as a whole, we as poor people do not invest in the stock market. Not many are familiar with IRAs or 401ks. So I think that this proposal, although it sounds like it has some merit, it certainly needs a lot of work, and it's something I don't think is a great idea for our community at this time."

Richard Townsell (Lawndale Christian Development executive director): "I know that what I've seen hasn't been very specific. I think that what I understand is true?"the Social Security system won't have enough money because baby-boomers that are my age are in the system, and there won't be enough money for their retirement. So I think that something needs to be done, and I would like the option of being able to take a portion of my payroll taxes and investing them. I think that it is a risk because with the market, markets go up, markets go down. I think if we do nothing though, we know what the outcome will be. So we know that something needs to be done. I'm disappointed that the Democrats have not come up with an alternative.

"What they've done is attack President Bush's proposal, but they haven't offered their own proposal. So that's kind of disgusting to me, that they are preying on people's fears without offering any alternative. And so I think that something needs to be done. I think that it's a train wreck that's going to happen. We've been teaching that in our homebuyers classes to folks for years, that it's a reality and so we're telling people now, 'Don't wait on Social Security. You need to be investing in IRAs, you need to be investing in your own. If your work has a pension plan of some sort, you need to be doing that because we don't know what is going to be happening with Social Security.' So our folks need to be pro-active, not reactive, not waiting on a government solution, but proposing our own solutions. If we can save our own, invest our own, that is what we need to do."

Gloria Jenkins (executive director, Westside Assoc. for Community Action): "I'm totally in opposition to Bush's proposed changes on Social Security. I don't really see how privatizing and utilizing those dollars or individuals' private dollars to invest in a 401k could really replace the system. Currently, as it stands and as it exists, if individuals have a problem, if they're sick or ill or should pass away, the children are also able to be covered under Social Security as it exists right now. Of course, individuals who become disabled are also able to receive benefits. However, if all this is eliminated and you privatize, if anything should happen to you, unfortunately that's it. Whatever you've invested, that's all you will get and your children, of course, would not be able to be a direct beneficiary of any of that unless you have designated such.

"So I don't firmly believe replacing Social Security by privatizing it is the answer. What I think we need to do is come to the table and find other ways that we can really enhance it and continue it beyond our years because we won't see any changes they say for another 40-50 years or more. So as it exists, it will not affect us; however our children and their children will be affected, and I don't think we need to eliminate it. It's far too great a risk. [Social Security] has done wonders for individuals who have no other resources."

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