WASHINGTON (AP) â€” Al Gore and George W. Bush are ignoring Social Security's real long-term problems in favor of negative attacks on their competing plans to set up new retirement savings options, Sen. John McCain said Wednesday.
McCain, R-Ariz., said the presidential candidates' focus on tearing down each other's proposals leaves no room for a serious debate on how to keep the current system from going broke as the baby boom generation retires.
``Maybe that wins or loses elections,'' said McCain, who sought the GOP nomination this year as a champion of government reform. ``But it doesn't bode well for a bipartisan approach and solution to the Social Security problem.''
Unless something is done, Social Security benefits will exceed payroll taxes collected beginning in 2015 and the program's cash reserves will be exhausted by 2037. McCain and Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., are pushing legislation that would create a 13-member commission made up of members of Congress to recommend how to fix the system.
``A majority of non-retired Americans do not believe they will get Social Security,'' Moynihan said. ``It's something we really have to worry about â€” and we're trying to do something about it.''
A bipartisan group of senators led by McCain and Moynihan appeared Wednesday before reporters with Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., and Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, to announce introduction of a House version of the bill.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate have reacted coolly to the idea and have all but abandoned any effort to tackle Social Security until after this year's election. McCain said if Bush, the Texas governor, and Vice President Gore would endorse the commission idea it might gain more momentum, but neither has done so.
Although both parties use Social Security as a wedge political issue, proponents of the commission said they would keep at it.
``I'm optimistic that we'll find some open doors,'' Saxton said.