Support shown for, against Social Security at Janesville rally

Some people drove from around the state to line Main Street on Friday to oppose private Social Security accounts. Some came to support private accounts.

AARP organizers set up a rally near Rep. Paul Ryan’s downtown Janesville office to lobby Ryan-who was not there-to abandon plans to overhaul the program.

“The solution should not be worse than the problem,” said Lisa Lamkins of AARP.

The crowd skewed elderly and middle-aged but featured some younger faces.

“It’s a problem we can’t not do anything about,” Jay said. “I want something done to save Social Security.”

AARP, America’s largest advocacy group for older people, has opposed private accounts with rallies and advertising.

Signs reading anti-account messages such as “Private accounts = $2 trillion in new debt,” mingled with signs bearing messages such as “AARP: stop lying to seniors.”

Organizers from Freedom Works, a conservative economic policy group, came to “let everybody know there’s two sides to this debate,” said Cameron Sholty, the group’s state director.

AARP has been “hijacked by its liberal leadership in Washington, D.C.,” according to the group.

AARP is nonpartisan, said Jeremy Janes, an AARP state spokesman.

The group hoped to educate passersby about the damage private accounts could do, Janes said.

President George W. Bush’s plan would let workers divert one-third of their payroll taxes into private accounts that would mix stock and fixed income funds.

Ryan advocates a different approach to transforming the program.

His proposal, co-sponsored by Sen. John Sununu, R-New Hampshire, would let workers divert a larger portion of their Social Security taxes into private accounts and substitute those funds for traditional benefits later. The plan would require workers to buy an annuity at retirement.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told media this week that Bush’s plan may have to wait until next year to gain passage.

Bush is talking up his plan on a 60-day cross-country barnstorming tour. The events are held for mostly sympathetic audiences.

The Janesville rally featured a unifying moment as it dissolved about 1 p.m.

Two couples-neighbors from Silver Lake-exchanged handshakes and laughs as they left the rally. One couple, Joseph and Anne Ivan, oppose the private accounts. The other couple also drove from Silver Lake to hit the other side of the issue.

“It’s hilarious,” Joseph said.