Lieberman Says He Doesn't Support Privatizing Social Security
By William Roberts
Washington, Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Joseph Lieberman, Democrat Al Gore's pick for vice president, backed away from prior statements supporting investment of Social Security funds in the financial markets.
"Every time I've been down the road, I've stopped," Lieberman said in a television appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live." He was discussing his past statements supporting the idea of investing Social Security assets, now reserved for U.S. treasuries, in the private sector.
"There is no there there," the Connecticut senator said. The numbers don't add up in various proposals to invest part of the Social Security trust fund in financial instruments, he said, and taking $1 trillion out of the fund would destabilize it.
Gore has attacked his Republican presidential rival, Texas Governor George W. Bush, for proposing changes to the Social Security retirement plan. The changes would allow today's workers to direct investment of their payroll taxes in financial markets - - stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
In campaign speeches, Gore regularly calls Bush's plan a "risky scheme." But Lieberman in the past has seemed supportive about privatizing Social Security as way to boost the public retirement system's assets enough to avoid insolvency, projected for 2034.
"I think in the end that individual control of part of the retirement-Social Security funds has to happen," Lieberman told the Copley New Service in May 1998.
Lieberman said the Bush campaign had misconstrued his position on Social Security reform.
Not 'Holy Writ'
"There is a case where the Bush campaign has taken some comments from years ago and made them into holy writ. It's just not so," Lieberman said in an interview broadcast from the campus of Vanderbilt University.
Bush campaign officials believe based on polls that their candidate is winning the battle for public opinion on the question of Social Security reform. Bush issued statements Monday and Tuesday as Lieberman was being announced by Gore, pointing out the discrepancy between the two Democrats on Social Security.
"This selection presents the vice president with an interesting test whether he will continue attacking positions his running mate shares," Bush said in a statement Tuesday. Bush said he respects Lieberman for his position on Social Security.
King asked Lieberman in the interview whether, if elected, he would break with Gore on a matter of moral imperative the way Lieberman had broken with President Bill Clinton during the White House intern sex scandal. Lieberman said he would not.
"I know the rules of the game," Lieberman said. "We'll discuss issues together, but when President Al Gore decides, Vice President Lieberman would support him all the way."
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