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Obama: Leadership Means Leveling with the American People about Social Security

October 27, 2007

Des Moines, IA -- During a town hall meeting at a Des Moines area senior center, Senator Barack Obama vowed to challenge the conventional thinking in Washington, D C that treats Social Security like a "political football". Obama said it was important to talk openly and honestly with the American people about how to strengthen Social Security.

"I think that on issues as fundamental as how to protect Social Security, a candidate for President owes it to the American people to tell us where they stand," said Obama. "Because you're not ready to lead if you can't tell us where you're going."

Obama noted that Senator Clinton has repeatedly dodged opportunities to reveal her thinking about the best way to strengthen Social Security. Obama was introduced at the event by Tod Bowman, an undecided Iowa caucusgoer and Maquoketa high school teacher, who asked Senator Clinton for more details about her position on Social Security at a campaign event in Iowa. In the public forum, she declined to directly answer Bowman's question, but later offered him a response when she thought no reporters were present. [To read more, click HERE.]

"Now, you might remember this came up at the last presidential debate," Obama said. "When Senator Clinton was asked about it, she wouldn't say what she thinks we should do. The other day, here in Iowa, she skipped another chance to give a direct answer."

He also pointed out that Senator Clinton was not the only politician in Washington who has refused to level with American people about an issue as important as Social Security. In fact, he identified it as the prevailing political strategy in Washington - but that, as President, he would change it.

"She's not alone in ducking the issue, of course," Obama said. "Because conventional thinking in Washington says Social Security is the third rail of American politics. It says you should hedge, dodge, and spin, but at all costs, don't answer."

Obama said he would strengthen Social Security by opposing any effort to create private accounts, raise the retirement age and cut benefits. He said the "best option" is to ask America's wealthiest workers to pay their fair share and force Congress to stop irresponsibly borrowing from the Social Security trust fund.

"There are a number of ways we can make Social Security solvent that do not involve forcing seniors to bear a heavier burden," Obama said. "The best option, in my view, is to ask the highest income Americans to contribute a little more by raising the ceiling that's currently put on the amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax."

Barack Obama, Obama: Leadership Means Leveling with the American People about Social Security Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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