Social Security Plan Bombs With Business

When President Clinton announced his proposal in January to offer "USA Accounts" to low-income workers as a means of shoring up the Social Security system, the concept received strong criticism from the business community. Now that the President has spelled out details of the proposal (in an Apr. 14 Rose Garden ceremony), business groups still don't like it. "Encouraging saving is great, but USA Accounts are exactly the wrong way to go about it," comments Lea Abdnor, executive director of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a broad coalition of 25 business associations and other interest groups. "The last thing we need is to paste another new entitlement onto an existing system that is already headed off a cliff into bankruptcy." Adds Sharon Canner, vice president for entitlement policy at the National Assn. of Manufacturers: "The USA Accounts would directly compete with, and thus discourage, company-sponsored retirement plans." Moreover, she observes, the plan "does nothing to resolve the underlying problem of demographics." Rather than the USA Accounts, which would be funded out of future federal-budget surpluses, business is pushing personal retirement accounts (PRAs) that would be controlled by employees and allow them to invest part of their payroll taxes in stocks and bonds. "USA Accounts are the great pretender of Social Security Reform," says Jack Faris, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents some 600,000 small-business owners. "PRAs represent real progress and real reform."

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