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Social Security hearing scheduled for S.D. today

on 9/6/01.

A federal commission studying ways to strengthen the Social Security system will hold a public hearing today at a downtown hotel, with 21 speakers scheduled to testify.

The 16-member bipartisan commission, formed by President Bush in May, is expected to submit its reform recommendations this fall. It will hold another public hearing in Cincinnati on Sept. 21.

The commission's task is to find ways to strengthen and modernize Social Security, which government projections estimate will be insolvent by 2038.

According to the group's guiding principles, it plans to recommend reforms without changing benefits for retirees or near-retirees, without raising payroll taxes and without the government investing Social Security funds in the stock market.

Bush has said he wants the commission to find a way to allow workers to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private investment accounts.

The hearing will be at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina on Harbor Drive. The first session will run from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and a second will run from 2 to 5 p.m. Only the 21 registered speakers will be allowed to testify.

Groups that favor and oppose the proposed reforms have scheduled rallies and protests outside the meeting.

A group called Institute for America's Future says it opposes privatizing Social Security, which it says will drain money from the system and result in benefit cuts. It also says the commission does not represent the needs of women, seniors, minorities or labor groups.

A group called the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education has scheduled a news conference to urge commissioners to allow low-income workers to opt out of the Social Security system. According to a news release, the coalition believes the current system "keeps blacks and low-income workers enslaved and on the government's poverty plantation."

Another group, Citizens for a Sound Economy, says it will rally in support of reforms that create personal retirement accounts that give "working Americans ownership over their retirement futures."