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Bills on the way to the US House and Senate offer methods of allowing some aspects of privatization of Social Security payroll taxes. Today Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke out against those bills. He says they would devastate rural Nevadans. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.
PLASKON: For Senator Harry Reid, social security hits close to home. His grandma was on it.
REID: She had eight children. She lived alone as I was a little boy and she was always an independent person and even though she had her children to support her she felt she didn't need it because she always had what she called her old age pension check that came in.
PLASKON: Reid grew up in Rural Nevada. So a report released today by the Institute for America's Future in Washington showing how much rural Nevadans rely on social security also hit close to home. Rural Nevadan's rely on social security 33 percent more than urban ones. Rural communities also have a higher percentage of senior citizen that depend on Social Security.
REID: Remember that 1/3rd of all the social security benefits are paid out to widows orphans and the disabled. Increased support in rural communities is important to rural businesses that are reliant on this.
PLASKON: Overall, workers would loose 181-thousand dollars in lifetime benefits if private accounts are implemented according to the report. It was partially funded by unions. Three Republican plans to privatize some aspects of social security haven't been through appropriations committees yet, but Reid said they could cost up to 5 trillion dollars to implement. Representatives from the Republican Party headquarters and Senator Ensigns office didn't return phone calls to KNPR by deadline. Messages like Reid's may be resonating with Americans. A poll released this week by USA today, CNN and Gallup showed 64 percent of Americans disapprove of the presidents handling of social security, a 20 percent higher disapproval rating than 4 months ago. Reid contends that there is nothing wrong with social security. But the poll also shows the president's message that social security is in crisis is resonating with the public. More than 90 percent of Americans believe social security is in at least some trouble.
LEE: I am a hot headed Republican.
PLASKON: Rural Nevadan's on social security like Pahrump resident Laura Lee know what's wrong. The government spent the social security surplus.
LEE: Well ya, I think they should make them pay it back, I don't even know who they loaned it to do you?
PLASKON: Giving social security money directly to private individuals is not the solution says Reid.
REID: They are talking about taking the securities of the United States and putting them into private accounts. Which would cause people to loose up to 60 percent of their benefits. That is one scheme.
But Lee has confidence the president can fix the problem.
LEE: I just don't think president bush would do anything to hurt it.
PLASKON: According to the group Nevada United to Protect Social Security, sponsors of the house republican bill are closest to a hearing. The goal is to have a social security bill on the house floor for a vote by the end of July. At that point Democrats may resort to using tactics such as filibustering to keep it off. Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR