Republicans from Poor Districts Skeptical of Bush Social Security Plan

State lawmakers offer praise, not sold on Social Security (Montgomery Advertiser)

Most Alabama lawmakers praised President Bush’s address to the nation Wednesday night, but some remained skeptical about his ambitious plans. “I’m going to be a pretty hard sell,” said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, of Bush’s proposal to overhaul Social Security. Rogers is usually loyal to the White House. His misgivings about Bush’s plan to allow Americans to invest part of their Social Security contributions in private accounts indicates how difficult it will be for Bush to sell the proposal.

While Bush can’t run for the White House again, Rogers and his House colleagues face re-election next year. Some are nervous about tampering with a system that Americans say is working well.


Rogers said the president’s plan was “too risky” for his constituents. “I represent a poor district,” he said, nonetheless praising Bush for attempting to strengthen Social Security. “I applaud him for getting this up on the table,” Rogers said.

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, also praised Bush for raising the issue. “I agree there is a crisis in the making in Social Security and that it would be the height of irresponsibility to simply ignore Social Security, as many Democrats advocate,” he said. “The president is right to raise the issue and stimulate a national discussion.” But Everett said he’d withhold his support until he heard more about Bush’s plan.

Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, also said he’s “not necessarily ready to sign off” on the president’s plan, but is keeping an open mind. “Social Security is one of the most popular programs, but if it’s now shored up and protected, it’s not guaranteed,” Bonner said. “I’m willing to listen.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said he is “keeping his powder dry” until more details are revealed about the president’s plan. He said he is “skeptical of any plan that places a significant burden on future generations and could endanger the economic well-being of the country.” “The principles sound good but we have to see the details,” Shelby said.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, said he is willing to embrace Bush’s plans right now. “I have no doubt that we can change Social Security to make it better by doing something like the president’s plan,” he said. Sessions also said he was impressed by Bush’s call to leave future generations with “an America that is safe from danger and protected by peace.”

via Josh Marshall

Rogers is my parents’ congressman and a true blue Republican, as is Everett. Sessions is the only true Movement Conservative in the bunch. (I know next to nothing about Bonner.) Still, if the president can’t carry these guys, he has no chance of getting his reforms passed. Of course, that’s probably true, anyway, given that Democrats would almost certainly filibuster in the Senate if it was going to pass.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Some are nervous about tampering with a system that Americans say is working well.

    Which poll is that? The one I heard was, a majority supports reform.

    I think these guys are just plain scared to do anything that matters.

  2. ken says:

    Bill Gross of Pimco manages over 400 billion dollars of other peoples money, and is himself a billionaire, is strongly opposed to the Republicans plans privitaze social security. He says in newspaper interviews and in his February commentary that instead Bush should improve Americas balance sheet by reducing the deficit. In other words here is another republican who sees how badly Bush has mismanaged our economy.

  3. Bithead says:

    “poor” districts has little if anything to do with it, I would guess. More likely, we’re talking about Urban areas, which heretofore have had enough *rural* poor to get by on.

  4. Dean Esmay says:

    From an economic and moral standpoint, moving Social Security to private accounts is the right thing to do. Calling it “privatization” isn’t quite right, because that could imply many things that aren’t being proposed–for example, there was a terrible roposal floating around a few years ago to “privatize” by having the government directly invest the money itself into the stock market. That would be “privatization” but exactly the wrong kind.

    Yes, Bush faces skepticism and resistance. But that’s what political capital is for: overcoming such things. Look at any great legislative accomplishment in history–any of them–and it’s involved an extended and protracted fight. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a classic case, but it wasn’t the first and it wasn’t the last that went off like that, with a lot of skepticism and a lot of dire warnings and a lot of pessimism–and itwas Lyndon Johnson’s finest hour as a politician. Not because of the stand that he took (plenty of people took such stands) but precisely becuase he worked so incredibly hard to overcome so much opposition, and won the day.

    This is a moral issue on the same level: do we continue backing a bankrupt system that robs from our children? Or do we move to a system which is more fiscally prudent, AND which gives the very poorest Americans an actual stake in the economy, and something they actually own and have some control over? Nothing could be clearer to me: on the domestic agenda, it’s the biggest moral item of the day, and it’s very much a case of the progressive view vs. the reactionary view.

    My bet is that Bush passes this and if he fails to pass it it comes very close and goes down as a landmark failure that his Presidency is remembered for as a brave moral stance–and something that’ll be picked up by a future adminitration and worked again.

    Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Period. Furtehrmore, it’s something that a majority of Americans now want, and while that majority is slim it’s growing, and young people especially, those up and coming and who’ll be taking the reigns of power in the coming decades, want it in even greater numbers.

    Those opposing this reform will lose. It’s not a question of “if” it’s a question of “when.” The current system is both fiscally and morally bankrupt, and practically everyone knows it. Saying “there’s nothing wrong” is whistling past the graveyard.

  5. Miss Virginia says:

    My parents built a fortune a couple of thousand at a time off small bequests from relatives.

    This is an advantage the poor never have. Especially black men. The poor end up using every penny to get by, have no savings to leave to their loved ones. Plenty of the poor get back less from SS than they put in, because their life expectancy is shorter than the avg. A black man who dies before 65 leaves nothing to his children if they are over 18.

    SS was structured so that each gen would pay the gen before. For 60 yrs, people have been drawing more out after retirement than they paid in. This can’t continue unless we start having 6 kids each. I will get less from SS than from IRA even though I have cont less than 1/2 as much to the IRA as to SS.

    It’s time to join the 21st Cent.

  6. Lt Bell says:

    Bush wants to dismantle the social scty system along with all
    government programs that might help people, his plan, already in motion, is for citizens to be forced to go to the churchs for any kind of assistance. He gave religon 12 BILLION Dollars last year. This is how he bought the religious vote and how he plans to reduce government.
    By the way his new budget greatly increases all costs and co-payments at VA Hospitals for the new class of disabled Veteran
    his war has created . Go Figure!