Bush pitches Social Security plan in Shreveport


The crowd roared its approval, especially when Bush expressed his determination to press forward. "My job as president is to confront problems, and not pass them on to a future president and future congress," Bush said, bringing the crowd to its feet. His stop here was part of a two-day, four-state Southern swing to get support for the proposal from the public and fellow Republicans. He has made his pitch earlier in the day in Memphis.
"I intend to take my message out week after week after week," Bush said, smiling.
Attempts were made by Bush opponents to counter his message — and not just on Social Security. A small group of protesters on a hillside near the arena where Bush spoke stuck small portraits of soldiers killed in Iraq into the grass during his speech. In Baton Rouge, a group of Democrats with reservations about the Bush plan held a forum they said was attended by more than 200.
Bush, however, heard from a friendly crowd.
"Your program is very attractive," Bishop Larry Brandon, pastor at the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, told Bush, turning to him on the stage. "I thank God for your approach that you are running towards this Goliath, to slay this Goliath." The crowd of about 3,000 like that, too.
"With your reforms, it's a positive incentive," said Sarah Hays, the LSU student next to Bush.
On the details — the borrowing that will be needed to finance Bush's idea of privately invested Social Security accounts — there were some questions afterwards. "He didn't talk about how much it will cost," Robby Cole, a 34-year-old manager at a manufacturing plant here, who nonetheless said he was "all for" the private accounts.
Opponents have been pointing to the transition costs, estimated in the trillions of dollars to cover current benefits while shifting to personal accounts for future retirees.
While Bush told the crowd that "all ideas are on the table," he focused on the one that he is partial to. "By putting money aside, by investing in the private market, you'll be able to get a better rate of return than if the government invests your money," he said — an idea economists say presupposes a far better performance from the stock market than it has enjoyed in recent years.
He ended with a veiled warning to balky Democrats: "Woe to the politician that doesn't come to the table," Bush said, and the crowd roared again.
Earlier, thousands waited hours in an open field outside the stadium for the chance to hear Bush. Many had been waiting outside since early morning to hear Bush talk about his plan, which will allow workers to invest some of their tax contributions in private accounts, including stocks, in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed benefits. Key details have yet to be released.
"I want to hear all of his views on Social Security reform," said Jerome Scott, the mayor of Pollock, La., who had been waiting in line since 8 a.m. after a drive of several hours. "I am open minded. I want to hear all of the pros and cons. At this point I'm not completely convinced," Scott said.
Robert Thomas, a farmer from Gibsland, said: "I believe I can handle my money better than the federal government."
Louisiana politicians, including the state's Republican Sen., David Vitter, and U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, the local congressman, who heads the House subcommittee on Social Security, joined the crowd in the Gold Dome.
The Bush administration says that by 2018, the system will pay out more in benefits than it collects; Economists, point out that there is ample principle and interest in Social Security's trust fund to cover any shortfall in 2018. Bush officials say that by 2042, the system will have exhausted its surpluses; Economists say it will still be able to pay 75 percent of benefits, and a small adjustment in taxes now would take care of the shortfall.
Groups opposed to the Bush plan did their best to try to counter the influence of a presidential visit.
"I believe that the plan would disadvantage the American people and make their retirement less secure," said Dana McCracken, president of the American Federation of Government Employees following a midday news conference in Shrevport.
McCracken said the Bush plan would only contribute to budget deficits.
In Baton Rouge, Sen. Mary Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, Treasurer John Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, all Democrats, led a forum on the Social Security issue. Organizers, striving to point out the difference in approach from that used by supporters of the Bush plan, said that supporters of the plan also took part in the discussion.
"There is no immediate crisis but there is a problem on the horizon," Landrieu said in a later intverview. But she likened the system to a home that constantly needs "minor repairs and admustments" and not an attempt at a permanent fix.
Estimates of problems beginning in 2042 are based on very modest economic growth projections, she said.
In Kentucky on Thursday, Bush told an audience that he wants a plan that will stabilize the program's long-term solvency. He has traveled to 11 states in support of his plan since his Feb. 2 State of the Union address.
Borrowing to make up for the shortfall in tax collections caused by their diversion to private accounts says will lead to debt equivalent to 24 percent of gross domestic product by 2060, according one government estimate.


http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/annearundel/bal-ho.federal11mar11,1,3788714.story?coll=bal-local-arundel

Loss of Energy Dept. jobs prompts appeal


By Melissa Harris
Sun Staff

March 11, 2005

Workers at Department of Energy headquarters in Germantown and Washington are circulating a petition supporting an appeal to the Government Accountability Office over the loss of 91 positions to a private company.
It is the first loss of jobs at the Energy Department's two headquarters since the Office of Management and Budget released new rules on public-private competitions in May 2003, called Circular A-76.
The petition appoints Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, to internally represent the 60 affected employees, who handle building maintenance and logistics. Thirty-one of the lost positions are vacant.
The goal of private-public competitions is to reduce waste and cut costs.
During standard competitions, typically ones in which more than 65 positions are up for grabs, an in-house team representing employees puts together its best offer, and private companies put together theirs.
"What we're doing is smart shopping," said David Safavian of OMB.
Last year, in-house teams won about nine of every 10 competitions governmentwide, but often not without making sacrifices. Agencies' proposals usually offer to do the same job with less - either with fewer people or from fewer buildings.
If a private company wins a standard competition, workers can elect someone to appeal directly to the agency chief. The circular also permits the head of the in-house team, called an agency tender official (ATO), to file a protest on employees' behalf.
If those efforts fail, a majority of affected workers must convince the ATO to appeal to the GAO on their behalf. Congress has prohibited unions and workers from making such appeals directly.
But if the ATO "determines there is no reasonable basis for the protest," he or she can drop it, the law states. Unions contend ATOs don't have enough autonomy from management to challenge decisions.
"It is a rubber-stamp," said John Threlkeld of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Mold removal at FMS
Cleaners are performing their final sweep of the Financial Management Service offices in Hyattsville after mold was discovered in the 10-story building in September, officials said.
FMS officials tested for mold after workers complained about scratchy throats, coughing and itchy, watery eyes. One employee went to the hospital during this period, but Sharon King, who supervises the building's staff, said that the incident was not mold-induced.
King dispelled rumors that the mold was of a highly toxic variety, called "black mold."
"The mold was black in color, but it wasn't black in the sense of classification," King said.
It's unclear how long elevated levels, defined as higher concentrations than outside, were present. Quarterly air-quality tests conducted before the discovery didn't include such checks, she said.
Mold levels will now be checked every quarter, but unions representing the 1,500 workers in the building said that they also want regular cleanings scheduled.
NSA's secret numbers
An astute reader wrote last week: "I know that the exact employee count from the National Security Agency at Fort Meade is classified, but my map shows that the entire reservation is Anne Arundel County. And the last time I looked, there were almost certainly more than 8,000 civilian employees at NSA."
He's right.
After following up on his letter, the data cited in last week's column on the number of federal jobs in Anne Arundel omitted information from the NSA.
There's also no way of knowing the correct figures.
"NSA does not report numbers on jobs or salaries, or unemployment data to us," said Linda Sherman, a spokeswoman at Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. "They're secret. Everything is confidential."
The omission doesn't just throw off statistics on labor trends in Anne Arundel County. NSA's work force is large enough to skew any data from the state's labor department on the federal sector.
Sadly, those same statistics also are the only measurements available.
The only thing the state can say for sure is that the NSA is Maryland's largest employer.

http://www.knoxstudio.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=WASHCALL-03-11-05&cat=WW

Ides of March ... Kevlar shorts ... dogfight ... more
By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
March 11, 2005
WASHINGTON - Syrian President Bashar Assad should beware the Ides of March.
The runes being read in Washington aren't looking good for the son of Syrian strongman Hafez al-Assad. A computer geek and technocrat, Bashar never really wanted the job as Syria's leader, and is in office thanks to his late father's geriatric cronies.
Some analysts forecast that the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon will prove to be a political and economic powder keg for Damascus. Meanwhile, there is little work available in Syria for an estimated 1 million Syrians now employed in Lebanon.
Syrian intelligence agents have a stranglehold on any opposition, but some in Syria could soon blame Bashar for the Lebanese debacle, and replace him with a new leader.
That won't make neighboring Israel happy. Bashar certainly is no friend of Israel, but he's a known quantity. Syria is headed for a very unpredictable and unstable period.
X...X...X
Pentagon plans to order civilian employees to global hot spots on just 72 hours notice are raising the hackles of union leaders. The American Federation of Government Employees union has filed suit to overturn the new rules, issued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They're intended to give the Pentagon greater flexibility in deploying civilian workers to Iraq and Afghanistan.
X...X...X
Weighing in at eight pounds, and requiring special suspenders to keep 'em up, the Air Force's new protective Kevlar shorts sure aren't long on mobility.
But the brass has concluded that the shorts at least provide vital protection of vital parts, and has bought 50 pairs for use by flyboys doing guard duty on Iraqi airfields.
Each one is made of 28 layers of Kevlar fabric. They take more than 90 seconds to put on and come fitted with quick-release latches. They're designed to match the regular Kevlar vests that cover the chest area.
X...X...X
The U.S. English Foundation says its survey finds that 322 languages are spoken at American homes - with a third of the languages having more than 10,000 speakers. The top 10 languages spoken in the United States today are, in order: English, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Italian, Korean and Russian.
Although millions are expected to claim Irish ancestry this St. Patrick's Day, the foundation concludes that Irish Gaelic is spoken in fewer than 26,000 American homes.
X...X...X
The insurance industry is battling dog lovers to head off bills in state legislatures that would ban hefty homeowner insurance premiums for owners of breeds prone to biting people.
The Humane Society of the United States says higher premiums depress adoption rates at animal shelters for breeds like German shepherds, rottweilers and pit bulls.
The Insurance Information Institute counters that dog bites comprised 25 percent of homeowner insurance claims in 2003, resulting in a cost of $321 million. The industry argues that investigations show some breeds have more of a propensity for biting people than other breeds. The industry also contends that it's not fair for those owning friendlier dog breeds or who don't own dogs at all to pay higher premiums.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, resulting in 800,000 injuries requiring medical attention.
X...X...X
The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a 64-page document that tells agency officials how sensitive government information should be handled and secured. Although HHS deemed the document "for official use only," and not for public consumption, a footnote on the title page notes: "Disclosure is not expected to cause serious harm to HHS."

http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050312/NEWS01/503120349/1002

Bush protesters, supporters turn out to voice opinions
March 12, 2005
By Keri Kirby

kerikirby@gannett.com

and Jimmy Watson

jimwatson@gannett.com

A painted butcher paper sign announcing "Centenary Swim team loves President Bush" hung out a window of Centenary College's Cline Hall one story up and four windows over from a larger banner that read "51 percent is NOT a mandate."

The large signs provided a backdrop for a group of about 200 people who stood in a designated public viewing area along Kings Highway at Alexander Avenue beginning at 11:30 a.m. Friday to await President Bush's arrival at the nearby Gold Dome.

Protesters and supporters stood side by side armed with homemade signs and T-shirts proclaiming everything from "Give up war for Lent" to "I want my personal account now."

Meanwhile, about 20 people opposing Bush's plan for privatizing Social Security gathered in front of the LSU-Shreveport's student center at noon. Calling themselves Americans United for Social Security, several -- including the president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2727, the state president of the United Auto Workers political action program, a college student and a retiree -- made the case against Bush's plan to divert a portion of Social Security dollars into private accounts.

"It will take away from the overall money going into Social Security," said Danny Ford, a Baton Rouge political consultant and representative of the group. "I think the overall plan is risky and gambling with the program that is in effect."

While passers-by often honked their horns in support of those voicing their differing opinions, those standing on the Centenary campus seldom engaged each other. At 1:30 p.m., about the time the crowd learned the president's motorcade had bypassed the group and delivered Bush to the Gold Dome, supporters and protesters joined to sing the national anthem.

"I just figured that was one thing both sides could do in unity," said Bush supporter Steve Casey of Stonewall.

Barbara Jarrell of Shreveport came to voice her concern about Bush and his decisions but was happy to strum the song out on her guitar as the crowd sang. "Somehow we've got to get together. As long as we want to be one country, we've got to have one strength. But the strength of America is the people and certainly not the government."

There were a few tense moments during the nearly four hours people stood outside.

Centenary freshman Lacey Anderson, 18, of Haughton was arrested by Shreveport police when she refused to move off the sidewalk after officers told her to do so. Anderson sat on the sidewalk but was handcuffed and loaded into the back of a police car. She was taken to City Jail, where she was booked on one count of obstruction of a public passage, a misdemeanor.

"We're not here to terrorize (the protesters). We're just trying to keep order," officer Vickie Fields said. "They've all gotten along well most of the morning until now."

Rodney Grunes, a Centenary political science professor who led a small group of protesters to the viewing area, voiced his concern about the forum going on inside the Gold Dome.

"To call this a town meeting is an outrage. You can't even ask questions from the floor like you can at a typical town hall meeting."

Grunes was upset that the Bush motorcade did not drive by the protest area on its way to or from the Gold Dome.

"I'm sure that was deliberate and that shows you what this administration is all about."

LSU freshman April Yu didn't really expect to see Bush. The 18-year-old came to Shreveport with about 12 others to rally support for the people passing by in vehicles.

Ali Hilsher, an 18-year-old Centenary freshman, felt just as strongly about sharing her opinion, although it couldn't have been more different from Yu's.

"I won a ticket but made the decision this morning to come out here," she said. "I signed up for the lottery to get a ticket when I thought it was a school-sanctioned event, but this is more like a Republican rally."

Centenary art instructor Bruce Allen used his ticket, but not before leading a group of protesters who put 1,000 photos of dead soldiers, along with dental records symbolizing the unknown deaths, on the campus lawn.

"This is a graphic illustration of what our foreign policy is really about," Allen said. "But regardless of what he has done, I'm going to see just what he has to say. He's got the right to free speech, too. "

Jennifer Atchison, vice president of Centenary's College Republicans, hoped to secure a ticket to see the president. But as the minutes ticked by, it looked less likely.

"I'm still thinking I might get one. But if not, I'll stand out here proudly," she said. "I'm just very honored he's here and I'm basically here to support Bush and Congressman (Jim) McCrery as they work to secure Social Security for our future."

Among the few black Republicans in the viewing area were sisters Ashley and Jessica Minor of St. Louis.

Jessica Minor, a 22-year-old Southern University student, drove to Shreveport from Baton Rouge only to stand about 100 yards from the Gold Dome. "I like what the president stands for on world, social and economic issues. And I believe that he has all of his ducks in a row."

Stuart Dyson, a Bossier Parish Community College student who led about 15 protesters from Columbia Park to the Centenary campus, disagreed. He was holding a sign that read "Bush #1 terrorist threat."

"I don't like a single thing he's doing" Dyson said. "He is threatening our American way of life. And he's trying to finish his father's war against people who pose no threat to us -- the Iraqis, the rich, the poor, the old and the young."

http://www.sunherald.com/mld/thesunherald/news/local/11116540.htm
Louisianians greet Social Security tour
Bush speaks to Shreveport crowd
By ADAM NOSSITER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SHREVEPORT, La. - A friendly crowd of invited supporters heard President Bush make his pitch for changing Social Security at an indoor college stadium, a receptive stop on Bush's national selling tour for the partial privatization plan.
The warmth of the crowd of several thousand in this Republican territory was matched by the friendliness of four citizens invited to share the stage during Bush's 45-minute visit. The White House called it a "Conversation on Strengthening Social Security," but there wasn't a flicker of dissent from the supportive minister, two retirees and local student who flanked Bush at Centenary College.
The crowd roared its approval, especially when Bush expressed his determination to press forward. "My job as president is to confront problems, and not pass them on to a future president and future congress," Bush said, bringing the crowd to its feet. His stop here was part of a two-day, four-state Southern swing to get support for the proposal from the public and fellow Republicans. He made his pitch earlier in the day in Memphis.
"I intend to take my message out week after week after week," Bush said, smiling.
Attempts were made by Bush opponents to counter his message - and not just on Social Security. A small group of protesters on a hillside near the arena where Bush spoke stuck small portraits of soldiers killed in Iraq into the grass during his speech. In Baton Rouge, a group of Democrats with reservations about the Bush plan held a forum they said was attended by more than 200.
Bush, however, heard from a friendly crowd.
"Your program is very attractive," Bishop Larry Brandon, pastor at the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, told Bush, turning to him on the stage. "I thank God for your approach that you are running towards this Goliath, to slay this Goliath." The crowd of about 3,000 liked that, too.
On the details - the borrowing that will be needed to finance Bush's idea of privately invested Social Security accounts - there were some questions afterwards. "He didn't talk about how much it will cost," Robby Cole, a 34-year-old manager at a manufacturing plant here, who nonetheless said he was "all for" the private accounts.
Opponents have been pointing to the transition costs, estimated in the trillions of dollars, to cover current benefits while shifting to personal accounts for future retirees.
Although Bush told the crowd that "all ideas are on the table," he focused on the one he is partial to.
He ended with a veiled warning to balky Democrats: "Woe to the politician that doesn't come to the table," Bush said, and the crowd roared again.
Earlier, thousands waited hours in an open field outside the stadium for the chance to hear Bush. Many had been waiting outside since early morning to hear Bush talk about his plan, which will allow workers to invest some of their tax contributions in private accounts, including stocks, in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed benefits. Key details have yet to be released.
"I want to hear all of his views on Social Security reform," said Jerome Scott, the mayor of Pollock, La., who had been waiting in line since 8 a.m. after a drive of several hours. "I am open minded. I want to hear all of the pros and cons. At this point I'm not completely convinced," Scott said.
Robert Thomas, a farmer from Gibsland, said: "I believe I can handle my money better than the federal government."
Louisiana politicians, including the state's Republican Senator, David Vitter, and U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, the local congressman, who heads the House subcommittee on Social Security, joined the crowd in the Gold Dome.
The Bush administration says that by 2018, the system will pay out more in benefits than it collects; Economists, point out that there is ample principle and interest in Social Security's trust fund to cover any shortfall in 2018. Bush officials say that by 2042, the system will have exhausted its surpluses; Economists say it will still be able to pay 75 percent of benefits, and a small adjustment in taxes now would take care of the shortfall.
Groups opposed to the Bush plan did their best to try to counter the influence of a presidential visit.
"I believe that the plan would disadvantage the American people and make their retirement less secure," said Dana McCracken, president of the American Federation of Government Employees following a midday news conference in Shreveport.
McCracken said the Bush plan would only contribute to budget deficits.
In Baton Rouge, Sen. Mary Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, Treasurer John Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, all Democrats, led a forum on the Social Security issue. Organizers, striving to point out the difference in approach from that used by supporters of the Bush plan, said that supporters of the plan also took part in the discussion.
"There is no immediate crisis but there is a problem on the horizon," Landrieu said in a later interview. But she likened the system to a home that constantly needs "minor repairs and adjustments" and not an attempt at a permanent fix.
Estimates of problems beginning in 2042 are based on very modest economic growth projections, she said.
In Kentucky on Thursday, Bush told an audience that he wants a plan that will stabilize the program's long-term solvency. He has traveled to 11 states in support of his plan since his Feb. 2 State of the Union address.
Borrowing to make up for the shortfall in tax collections caused by their diversion to private accounts says will lead to debt equivalent to 24 percent of gross domestic product by 2060, according one government estimate.

http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/news/1110623474189250.xml

Ohioans rally to save defense jobs
Leaders tell Taft why facilities needed
Saturday, March 12, 2005
T.C. Brown
Plain Dealer Bureau
Columbus - Ohio's political and community leaders rallied here Friday to save the state's federal defense jobs on the eve of a U.S. government process aimed at closing military bases and support services.
Local leaders and federal employees from seven Ohio communities representing eight installations and operations - including Cleveland's Defense Finance and Accounting Service - told Gov. Bob Taft of their efforts this past year to convince federal officials of the critical need for their operations.
President Bush on Tuesday will appoint a commission to initiate the Base Realignment and Closure process, which is expected to close up to 25 percent of military installations, saving more than $3 billion.
The Defense Department will issue its recommendations on May 16 to the commission, which will have until Sept. 8 to present recommended closings to Bush. Congress will ultimately give an up or down vote.
Cleveland's finance operation of 1,200 people is considered especially vulnerable because its computer operations, which dole out pay and pensions to 2.7 million active and retired military people, could be relocated in a consolidation move.
Carol Caruso, government affairs vice president for the Greater Cleveland Partnership, told Taft the operation is essential for paying soldiers and guardsmen but is also essential for Cleveland.
Losing the finance service could cost Greater Cleveland's economy $128 million. Before the rally, Caruso said not only should the office be saved, but its operation also should be increased.
"Cleveland is a center of excellence for financial services, so it is a perfect place for this operation," said Caruso.
Taft, who has visited all of Ohio's military operations, said it is important for every community with a base to have money to lobby the Pentagon and other military officials. The Ohio Department of Development provided $2.5 million in grants. Cleveland received $300,000, which it matched locally.
Victor Davis, a Cleveland finance service employee and local president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 3283, said morale is low at the office, housed in the Federal Office Building.
"It's a very tense atmosphere," Davis said. Employees have been writing letters and lobbying state and federal leaders. "People are on edge and worried how they are going to provide for themselves and their families."
Joe Renaud, Ohio's aerospace and defense adviser, warned the crowd to brace for a rough ride, saying it would be "the mother of all" base closings.

http://www.deridderdailynews.com/articles/2005/03/13/news/news6.txt

President Bush pitches Social Security during Shreveport visit
By ADAM NOSSITER
Associated Press Writer
SHREVEPORT (AP) - A friendly crowd of invited supporters heard President Bush make his pitch for changing Social Security at an indoor college stadium here, a receptive stop on Bush's national selling tour for the partial privatization plan.
The warmth of the crowd of several thousand in this Republican territory was matched by the friendliness of four citizens invited to share the stage here during Bush's forty-five minute visit. The White House called it a ''Conversation on Strengthening Social Security,'' but there wasn't a flicker of dissent from the supportive local student, two retirees and minister who flanked the President here at Centenary College.
The crowd roared its approval, especially when Bush expressed his determination to press forward. ''My job as president is to confront problems, and not pass them on to a future president and future congress,'' Bush said, bringing the crowd to its feet. His stop here was part of a two-day, four-state Southern swing to get support for the proposal from the public and fellow Republicans.
He has made his pitch earlier in the day in Memphis.
''I intend to take my message out week after week after week,'' Bush said, smiling.
Attempts were made by Bush opponents to counter his message - and not just on Social Security. A small group of protesters on a hillside near the arena where Bush spoke stuck small portraits of soldiers killed in Iraq into the grass during his speech.
There was one arrest; Lacey Anderson, 18, was charged with obstructing a public passage after police said she sat on a sidewalk outside the school, blocking the way and refusing to get up.
In Baton Rouge, a group of Democrats with reservations about the Bush plan held a forum they said was attended by more than 200.
Bush, however, heard from a friendly crowd.
''Your program is very attractive,'' Bishop Larry Brandon, pastor at the Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral, told Bush, turning to him on the stage. ''I thank God for your approach that you are running towards this Goliath, to slay this Goliath.'' The crowd of about 3,000 like that, too.
''With your reforms, it's a positive incentive,'' said Sarah Hays, the LSU student next to Bush.
On the details - the borrowing that will be needed to finance Bush's idea of privately invested Social Security accounts - there were some questions afterwards. ''He didn't talk about how much it will cost,'' Robby Cole, a 34-year-old manager at a manufacturing plant here, who nonetheless said he was ''all for'' the private accounts.
Opponents have been pointing to the transition costs, estimated in the trillions of dollars to cover current benefits while shifting to personal accounts for future retirees.
While Bush told the crowd that ''all ideas are on the table,'' he focused on the one that he is partial to. ''By putting money aside, by investing in the private market, you'll be able to get a better rate of return than if the government invests your money,'' he said - an idea economists say presupposes a far better performance from the stock market than it has enjoyed in recent years.
He ended with a veiled warning to balky Democrats: ''Woe to the politician that doesn't come to the table,'' Bush said, and the crowd roared again.
Earlier, thousands waited hours in an open field outside the stadium for the chance to hear Bush. Many had been waiting outside since early morning to hear Bush talk about his plan, which will allow workers to invest some of their tax contributions in private accounts, including stocks, in exchange for a reduction in guaranteed benefits. Key details have yet to be released.
''I want to hear all of his views on Social Security reform,'' said Jerome Scott, the mayor of Pollock, La., who had been waiting in line since 8 a.m. after a drive of several hours. ''I am open minded. I want to hear all of the pros and cons. At this point I'm not completely convinced,'' Scott said.
Robert Thomas, a farmer from Gibsland, said: ''I believe I can handle my money better than the federal government.''
Louisiana politicians, including the state's Republican Senator, David Vitter, and U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, the local congressman, who heads the House subcommittee on Social Security, joined the crowd in the Gold Dome.
The Bush administration says that by 2018, the system will pay out more in benefits than it collects; Economists, point out that there is ample principle and interest in Social Security's trust fund to cover any shortfall in 2018. Bush officials say that by 2042, the system will have exhausted its surpluses; Economists say it will still be able to pay 75 percent of benefits, and a small adjustment in taxes now would take care of the shortfall.
Groups opposed to the Bush plan did their best to try to counter the influence of a presidential visit.
''I believe that the plan would disadvantage the American people and make their retirement less secure,'' said Dana McCracken, president of the American Federation of Government Employees following a midday news conference in Shrevport.
McCracken said the Bush plan would only contribute to budget deficits.
In Baton Rouge, Sen. Mary Landrieu, U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon, Treasurer John Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, all Democrats, led a forum on the Social Security issue. Organizers, striving to point out the difference in approach from that used by supporters of the Bush plan, said that supporters of the plan also took part in the discussion.
''There is no immediate crisis but there is a problem on the horizon,'' Landrieu said in a later intverview. But she likened the system to a home that constantly needs ''minor repairs and admustments'' and not an attempt at a permanent fix.
Estimates of problems beginning in 2042 are based on very modest economic growth projections, she said.
In Kentucky on Thursday, Bush told an audience that he wants a plan that will stabilize the program's long-term solvency. He has traveled to 11 states in support of his plan since his Feb. 2 State of the Union address.
Borrowing to make up for the shortfall in tax collections caused by their diversion to private accounts says will lead to debt equivalent to 24 percent of gross domestic product by 2060, according one government estimate.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30325-2005Mar12.html

Defense Changes Breed Anxiety and Opposition
By Stephen Barr

Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page C02
More than 27,000 comments have been filed in response to the proposed regulation that would permit the Defense Department to overhaul how it pays, promotes and disciplines civil service employees.
At least 21,000 of the comments are form letters sent in at the urging of unions, a Defense spokesman said. Unions represent more than half of the Defense workforce and, under the proposed regulation, would lose much of their bargaining power.
That leaves 5,000 to 6,000 comments that can be deemed original, and they reflect an array of opinions about the new personnel rules, called the National Security Personnel System. A cursory reading of the comments shows that most are skeptical or opposed to the planned changes.
To some extent, the opposition is not surprising, given the nature of the change being proposed by the Pentagon. The anxiety shows up in the rhetoric of some of the comments as employees weigh whether NSPS will turn out to be good or bad for the Defense civil service.
"From what I read about this system, it begins to read something like the old spoils system," wrote Daniel Field, an Air Force employee. "This gigantic change in the way the government has worked," he added, "will only breed the boot lickers."
But another employee said: "I am excited about the new NSPS. This change has been long overdue. . . . I hope this new system will allow agencies to recruit top private sector performers, and start them at a salary commensurate with their experience and compensation."
Other comments came from employees seemingly interested only in the details. "In section 9901.703, what is the difference between indefinite suspension and suspension?" an employee asked.
With few exceptions, the comments have been filed anonymously, do not give an occupation or disclose where the respondent works.
The proposed regulation would jettison the General Schedule salary system for a performance-based system that would give managers greater discretion over pay, streamline employee appeals of discipline and sharply curtail the role of unions.
The changes have been in the works for two years. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Congress that current rules have hindered the department's ability to recruit talented employees. He said managers often turn to private contractors or assign military personnel to perform tasks that would be better handled by civil service employees.
Comments filed by employees show that one of the Pentagon's chief challenges will be how to communicate and explain the changes as it moves toward a July launch of the system's first phase. Here's a few of the concerns -- and perceptions -- expressed about the proposed regulation:
• On the details: "Flesh the beast out, then ask for public comments -- this is essentially a pig in a poke," an employee wrote. Another said: "How can a reasonable person be expected to make a determination on this document if much of the vital information on how the process will work is missing?"
• On management: "The problem is that the managers may not know how to properly evaluate performance since they work . . . in a culture that mainly rewards seniority and image," one person wrote. Another asked: "How will the managers' skills be improved under NSPS to prove that they are capable of leading, of making difficult decisions, and doing hard work that they have shirked in the past under the GS system?"
• On fairness: "Favoritism and cronyism will rapidly develop as there will be greater efforts on the part of most employees to shmooze the boss with hyperbole about themselves, and those that they support," an employee said. Another wrote: "This will breed a new bunch of YES men/women who will be afraid to let their supervisors know things that will make them angry."
• On employee rights: "NSPS, if not just a desire to do something different, appears to be an attempt to allow more autonomy within government agencies to hire and fire whom they please . . . while negatively impacting/reducing the avenues of redress for the average worker," an employee wrote. An older employee worried that seniority would no longer be a key factor in deciding who gets laid off.
Those comments and many more can be found at a Pentagon Web site (www.cpms.osd.mil/nsps). The deadline for submitting comments is Wednesday.


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