By Elizabeth Fulk - 02/10/05 12:00 AM EST
Anti-gambling groups are backing President Bush’s Social Security reform plan and rejecting critics who have compared the creation of private accounts to playing the slots.
Social conservatives, known for their opposition to gambling, say that investing Social Security money in the stock market has few, if any, parallels to gambling.
AARP has launched a $5 million ad campaign against the president’s plan that sends a very different message. Underneath a picture from the trading floor of the stock exchange, one AARP ad reads: “Winners and losers are stock market terms. Do you really want them to become retirement terms?”
Another ad states, “If we wanted to gamble, we’d play the slots.”
Social conservative groups say they do not see Bush’s privatization efforts as being morally questionable.
“The moral problem is what we are doing today” with Social Security, said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. “We need to be morally responsible and stop the deception that is going on all around us.”
Perkins said the president’s revision to Social Security would make it less risky than the current system: “We allow people to believe they are paying into a safety net when in fact, for folks my age, it is not going to be there at all. Had I invested my money in the stock market, I would have that, plus some.”
American Values president Gary Bauer said investing in the stock market is significantly different from playing the roulette wheel: “Gambling is marked by a reality that every player knows ... the house always wins. While it’s true that on rare occasions, someone may be lucky, they are the exception to the rule.”
“Over time, the American markets have consistently rewarded long-term investors. The hope that investors show in America and her economy has been realized from generation to generation,” Bauer said.
Christian Coalition President Roberta Combs said she believes in the AARP’s mission, but disagrees with the comparison it has made. “President Bush inherited a broken system, and I admire him for seeing a problem and trying to fix it,” she said.
Democrats on Capitol Hill have echoed AARP’s points, repeatedly saying that personal accounts are risky and would be a major boon to Wall Street firms.
Democrats have also expressed concern with House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim McCrery (R-La.) for an offhand remark he made after the State of the Union address last week. Asked on C-SPAN how Bush’s message on Social Security will play out in legislation, McCrery laughed and said, “If I knew that, I’d be playing the stock market.”
A House Democratic aide said McCrery’s statement reflects the volatility of the market and the risk involved with personal accounts.
While social conservatives are backing Bush on Social Security, they recently expressed concern that the president seems more willing to put retirement and tax-related issues ahead of “moral” issues, such as banning same-sex marriage.
Some House Republicans, such as Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), have sponsored legislation to ban Internet gambling but maintain there is no tie between revamping Social Security and gambling.
“Congressman Leach feels strongly about the need to ban gambling over the Internet,” said Leach’s press secretary, Greg Wierzynski. “Gambling poses a major risk to national security because it is a classic way of money laundering.”
Wierzynski added that Leach felt the president’s Social Security plan needed some modification and fell short of details. “The devil is in the details, and we still don’t know enough about the devil,” the spokesman said.
“Privatizing Social Security adds a lot of risk into a system that is supposed to be risk-averse,” said Steve Hahn, spokesman for AARP. “It raises the question: What is Social Security — a program for retirement or a safeguard for investments?”