Omaha World-Herald - Esch Says Don't Privatize Social Security

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Omaha World-Herald - Esch Says Don't Privatize Social Security

Omaha Democrat Jim Esch used the 73rd anniversary of Social Security to criticize opponent Lee Terry, saying Terry's plans to privatize the program would be harmful to senior citizens.

Esch said Thursday that Terry's support for private Social Security accounts is the wrong way to deal with Social Security's long-term solvency issues.

Esch is running against Terry, the Republican incumbent, for the 2nd Congressional District seat.

Democratic House candidates nationwide used Social Security's birthday to criticize their GOP opponents.

Citing a report by the Institute for America's Future, Esch said private accounts would cut lifetime benefits to Nebraskans and place tens of thousands on the verge of poverty.

Terry and Republican presidential candidate John McCain have favored allowing workers to voluntarily divert a portion of their Social Security taxes for private investment accounts.

Terry co-sponsored legislation in Congress that would have allowed such accounts.

"I have a strong record of protecting Social Security," Terry said today in a statement. "I want to ensure that benefits will be there for retirees who need them in the future. That's why I support having a national discussion on this issue. All options should be on the table for consideration, including private accounts."

Terry said he wants to avoid raising taxes to shore up Social Security.

Esch supports adjusting the cap on income that is taxed for Social Security, but he didn't offer specifics. Currently the cap is $102,000. In his campaign against Terry two years ago, Esch suggested raising the cap to $140,000, although he said then that an exception might be needed for the self-employed.

"I've always thought it's a little unfair to the person that's making $50,000 a year that 100 percent of their salary or wages is being taxed (for Social Security)," Esch said today, "while somebody that makes a million dollars a year, only $102,000 of their wages are taxed."

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama advocates a Social Security payroll tax on incomes above $250,000.