|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 29, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
TOPIC PAGE #
President Obasanjo visit..................................1 Social Security............................1-7; 9-10; 14-18 Taiwan...................................................11 Minutemen.............................................11-12 Iraq.....................................................13
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
___________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 29, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:34 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to begin with one announcement on the President's schedule. The President looks forward to welcoming Nigerian President and current Chairman of the African Union, President Obasanjo, to the White House on May 5th. The President looks forward to discussing our bilateral relations, Nigeria's role in the African Union's peacekeeping efforts in Sudan, and regional stability for West Africa.
And that is all I have to begin with today, I will go straight to your questions.
Q Under the President's new proposal unveiled last night, would average workers see a cut in their Social Security benefit?
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, right now under the current system, all Americans are facing significant benefit cuts. If we do nothing, all Americans will see significant cuts in their Social Security benefits. The Social Security system is on an unsustainable course. The facts are very clear. In just three years from now, baby boomers are going to start retiring and they're going to place a great strain on the Social Security system.
As the President talked about last night, in 1950, you had 16 workers supporting every one retiree; and today it's about 3.3 to one, and soon it's going to be two to one. So you have a growing number of retirees and a smaller number, or a decreasing number of workers paying into the system to support their benefits. And in just over a decade, it's projected that the Social Security system will be paying more out in benefits than it's taking in, in payroll taxes. And then by 2041, of course, it goes bankrupt. And that's why we need to come up with a permanent solution, one that not only fixes the system once and for all, but also makes it better, as the President talked about last night.
That's why personal accounts are such an important part of any comprehensive solution that is reached by members of Congress. And that's why the President is going to continue talking about that. But the President put forward some additional ideas last night that he believes should be part of any solution to fixing the Social Security system.
And he also made it clear that when we're talking about Social Security, it's working fine today; it's working fine for today's seniors and those near retirement; we shouldn't change it, we're not going to change anything for those who are currently retired or near retirement. What we're talking about doing is fixing it for our children and grandchildren, and also giving them the opportunity to really build a nest egg of their own. That's the great thing about personal accounts. Personal accounts will allow them to have more control over their own retirement savings, if they so choose. It's voluntary. These are voluntary personal accounts.
And it will allow them to realize the magic of compounding interest; allow them to realize a much greater rate of return on their benefits. And so you have to look at both of these together -- the permanent fix along with the personal accounts -- and the opportunity that it will give to Americans to realize a much greater rate of return on their savings.
Q Under the Pozen plan, he has a specific formula on who gets what and how benefits are determined. Is the President signing on to all elements of this Pozen plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he was saying that he's proposing an approach that is based on what Mr. Pozen outlined. And he was a Democratic member of the President's commission that looked at all these issues. And all of those members came to a conclusion that Social Security was headed on an unsustainable course. We face an $11 trillion unfunded liability under the current system. And we shouldn't be passing that on to future generations. And each year that we wait it's another $600 billion in cost that will be passed on to our children and grandchildren. That's why we need to act this year and get it fixed once and for all.
But the President did last night in his remarks make it clear that any solution ought to make sure that the benefits for lower-income Americans will continue to grow under what is promised under the current system. But the current system cannot deliver that promise. And so lower-income American benefits will grow faster than the wealthiest. He thinks this is a smart way to approach this issue and come to a bipartisan solution. And last night he was putting forward these ideas in order to advance a bipartisan solution so that we can get something done this year.
Unfortunately, there are some Democratic leaders who continue to take the "do nothing" approach. And the "do nothing" approach will lead to significant benefit cuts for all Americans. And the ones who will be hit the hardest will be lower-income Americans, who rely completely on Social Security. Those are Americans that don't tend to have the opportunity to have other retirement accounts, where they will have more benefits set aside than just what's offered under Social Security.
Q Scott, can you just explain how the President's plan would work?
MR. McCLELLAN: How the President's plan would work?
Q Yes. I mean, you explained it in the gaggle when --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you look at the Pozen model --
Q -- you talked about low income, sliding scale. Can you --
MR. McCLELLAN: Right, there would be a sliding scale. And that's what -- we put out a fact sheet on this last night, I think it explained it all for you. And I think the Pozen model is a good way to look at it, because it is based on that kind of approach. It's a progressive approach and the President believes it's the way we ought to proceed on a comprehensive solution, while also providing personal accounts. He wants to make sure that if people so choose, that they can invest some of their savings in personal accounts and realize a much greater rate of return on their savings.
I think if you look at the estimates from the Social Security experts, they'll say that personal accounts, on a conservative estimate, are going to realize returns of some 4.6 percent -- that's compared to the current system, which is around 1.8 percent in what it's returning. And the President, as he said last night, believes it should not be just for the wealthiest Americans to be able to realize the magic of compound interest -- all Americans should have the opportunity to realize the benefits from compounding interest.
Q Scott, if you're expecting a benefit check of a certain level, and a benefit check comes in that's a lot less than that, isn't that a cut?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's talk about -- let's talk about this, because there are essentially two options --
Q Why isn't it a cut?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- two options we have right now.
Q Can you explain why that's not a cut, though?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what are you comparing it to?
Q A check that you're expecting versus the one that you get.
MR. McCLELLAN: The current system -- the current system if we do nothing will lead to significant benefit cuts for all Americans. All Americans. That's why we need to fix the system. That's why we need to make it permanently sound. And the clock is now starting to tick on Democratic leaders. They need to come forward with ideas and quit simply standing in the way of solutions. The American people expect their leaders to work together to address problems and not engage in partisan schemes that simply block solutions.
Q I understand the nature of the debate, Scott. The use of the word "cut," if you're expecting a check of a certain level, and another one comes in that's less than that, why is that not a cut?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's a question of how fast the benefits grow, Mark. That's what the question boils down to. Under the current system -- that's why I'm pointing to -- there's the promise of the current system, but that promise is an empty promise. And if we continue on the current course, Americans -- all Americans, including low-income Americans -- are going to see significant benefit cuts. That's the "do nothing" approach.
The President recognizes that we have serious problems facing Social Security and the American people recognize that we have serious problems facing Social Security. If you go back and look over these last 60 days when we've been campaigning out across the country, more and more Americans have come to the conclusion that there are serious problems facing Social Security and that Congress needs to act. And that means Democratic leaders need to stop blocking solutions and start offering ideas.
Q So what you're saying, though, is that either way it's a cut -- it's just, you pays your money, you takes your choice? Either way benefits would be cut, the President wants to do it one way --
MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm saying, under the current system if you do nothing, there are going to be significant benefit cuts. That's why the President believes we need to have a permanent solution; that's why he believes personal accounts are so important, because personal accounts -- personal accounts will enable you to realize a much greater rate of return.
I just pointed out what the conservative estimate is. I think many people would expect to realize much more. If you look back at the stock market from 1926 to 2004, the real rate of return from the stock market is nearly 7 percent. What we're talking about is a conservative mix of bonds and stocks that people would be able to choose from, much like members of Congress and federal employees can do today under the Thrift Savings Plan.
But the President also added an additional option, which was that if you want to invest in even a safer option, then you could put it aside in all Treasury bonds. So what you need to do, Mark, I think is go to Democratic leaders and go, you are talking about problems, well, what ideas are you putting on the table -- because it's time to come to the table with ideas and quit blocking solutions.
Q I'm asking about the use of the word "cut," because earlier today you called -- you said it was irresponsible to use that word, and I'm just trying to figure out --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. No. Actually --
Q -- whether that would appropriately apply.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- let me correct you. That's not what I said. That's not what I said. I said it's irresponsible when a headline says that, Bush cites plan that would cut Social Security: affluent more effective. That leaves the impression, one, that it's affecting everybody now; and, two, that that applies to everybody across the board. That's not the case, and you know that that's not the case. And that's not what -- I disagree with the way you characterize the way I cited it.
Q Scott, I imagine millions of Americans who saw the President last night may be wondering when they become well off, when they become affluent. Does the President have some idea in mind as to what income level, retirement income level, looking towards the future, I guess, this index, this sliding thing would kick in?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're going to be working with Congress on those issues. The Pozen model, what it did, was say for the lowest 30 percent of Americans, the lowest-earning income Americans in that lowest 30-percent bracket, they would see the promise of Social Security realized under the current -- under that approach. And then it's a sliding scale on the way up to the wealthiest Americans. And so you might want to look at that model. It's based on that approach. And that's what we're going to work with Congress on.
And what that approach will do also is address 70 percent of the funding problem facing Social Security. And the President has already said that there are a number of other ideas for addressing that remaining 30 percent that he believes should be on the table. He welcomes all constructive ideas for coming together to permanently fix it. And he believes very strongly, as you heard last night, that any solution needs to include personal accounts because you can't look at the system solely based on this progressive indexing system. You have to look at the opportunity that younger Americans will have to realize much more when they choose -- if they so choose -- a voluntary personal account.
Q Why is the White House asking for racial profiling for the private reception for the White House Correspondents Dinner?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, we're not. I think the law enforcement officials, the Secret Service can talk to you about that and tell you why they have done that for a long time for criminal background checks, and so that they can get those checks done in a timely manner. But you might want to talk to the Secret Service about that.
Q They've done it for years?
MR. McCLELLAN: They could --
Q Also, I have an unrelated question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, go ahead.
Q Why is it that the President, who considers himself a compassionate President, is giving the biggest tax cut to the richest people in this country and cutting Medicare -- Medicaid, I mean, and programs for the poor? I mean, how can you justify that?
MR. McCLELLAN: You actually asked me this question earlier today --
Q I did. I didn't get a satisfactory answer.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, only in Washington, D.C. is a 35-percent increase in funding for Medicaid considered --
Q Who's going to pay for this war? Who's going to pay for the deficit?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- a cut. And in terms of the tax cuts, the tax cuts were for all Americans. And the largest percentage --
Q The biggest to the richest people?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- of tax cuts go to the lower income Americans. And the tax cuts were important to get our economy growing. And our economy is growing because of the policies we have implemented. It is growing strong and forecasts are that it will continue to grow strong in a very sustained way.
Q So the rich should get the richest -- the biggest tax cut?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. Helen, you're not letting me respond. Go ahead.
Q Scott, Drudge reports that at last night's presidential news conference, "CBS, NBC and Fox cut off President Bush in mid-sentence as NBC rushed to Donald Trump, Fox to Paris Hilton, and CBS to Survivor." And my first question, why does the President recognize for questions those reporters whose networks treat the White House with such despicable contempt?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President was glad to answer questions from a diverse group of reporters and he was --
Q Oh, it was?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- pleased to answer their follow ups, as well. The President took questions for I think well over 45 minutes -- well, probably even more, closer to an hour, in terms of questions.
Q ABC radio affiliate. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: But, now, look, in terms of cutting away on the last question, look, I don't think the President took any offense to that. He was trying to wrap it up so that they could do that very thing.
Q In recognizing reporters last night, it appeared once more as if the President were following a script of pre-selected names. And my question, does the President believe that the American people really want to see questions by essentially the same old pre-selected reporters every time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, some of your colleagues in this room might not like that kind of question here. (Laughter.)
Q That's just tough duck.
MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms of -- it is good to have you back, though. In terms of your question, the President typically likes to start with some of the larger news organizations and some of the traditional media, and then open it up from there. That's just the way he approaches it.
Q You mean those networks that are losing -- they are losing and those newspapers that are losing circulation?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Wendell had a question.
Q Does the President support the element of the Pozen plan that reduces the government-paid Social Security benefit by the amount the person is able to accumulate from the personal accounts?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not something he was talking about last night in his remarks. What he was talking about was the progressive indexing, and that's what he was referring to. We feel very strongly on the personal accounts that they are important for several reasons. One, a personal account would be something that Washington can never take away. It would be the ability of younger Americans to realize a much greater rate of return than what they would under the current system on their own retirement savings. And it would give them the opportunity to pass that on to their heirs, because it's their money. Washington can never take it away. But what's important about the personal account is that it really allows them to realize a greater rate of return and build and grow that nest egg so that they will have a secure retirement.
Q So as I understand this then, the money invested in the personal account diminishes Social Security's government-paid benefits by only that much withdrawn, that 2 percent, 4 percent, or whatever it is?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's the approach the President has talked about.
Q And the different accounts which may accumulate different amounts of money over time, you're not penalized if your account does better than, say, someone else's? Your government-paid benefit is not reduced by the amount you're --
MR. McCLELLAN: The benefit offset would be what you take out and invest in that personal account.
Q And not how much it grows?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q Is it the President's intention to use that as a benchmark, getting 70 percent of the problem with Social Security fixed with progressive indexing, and then find something else to do with the other 30 percent?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, say that again.
Q You just said that the progressive indexing would take care of about 70 percent of the problem.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right, that's right.
Q Is that the President's benchmark? If he's using the Pozner [sic] model but not the exact figures. Is that his intention --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said it's approximately 70 percent, based on the -- based on the approach that Pozen put forward.
Q And from the 70 percent, because you've said before in the past that personal accounts would have some up-front transition finance, would take money away from it, how much do you have to make up for the personal accounts out of the 70 percent that you thought you could achieve with the progressive indexing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, this is getting -- you're getting into transition financing issues and stuff. And the one the President has talked about with personal accounts is that it would be gradually -- gradually phased in. And these are issues that we want to work through with congressional leaders on in the legislation that we'll be moving forward in Congress. We greatly appreciate Chairman Thomas coming out today and laying out a schedule for hearings. Senator Grassley has already started hearings in the Senate Finance Committee. Both chambers are now stepping up their legislative activity and moving forward on legislative efforts.
I think congressional leaders recognize the importance of acting this year. And we appreciate the steps that they are taking. And we're going to continue consulting closely with them as we move forward.
And one other thing about -- that the President pointed out last night and that he proposed was making sure that no American retires in poverty. Right now under the current system you have some 2 million retirees who have paid their benefits into Social Security and the returns they're getting leave them living in poverty. And the President believes that should not happen. And that's why he believes any solution ought to make sure that no American retires in poverty.
Q Scott, I promise the last question about this, the Taiwan opposition leader's trip. But he had a meeting with the Chinese President and they agreed to promote cross-strait relations and pursue long-term peace. However, the Taiwan government still showed very little willingness to have dialogue with the mainland and still criticized the opposition leader's gestures. Do you have any reaction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and I think we kind of talked about this the other day. One, we all have a shared goal of peace and stability in the region. And we believe cross-strait dialogue is important to promoting peace and stability in the region. And we welcome dialogue between China and leaders in Taiwan.
Now, we believe that it's most important that there be dialogue between Chinese leaders and the elected representatives of the government of Taiwan. And so we would hope that this would be a sign that China will continue to move forward on a dialogue with President Chen and representatives of his government, which is the duly elected government in Taiwan.
Q But he set some conditions to have the dialogue. The Taiwanese government really didn't show much interest in having the dialogue with the mainland.
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll continue working with the parties in the region and continue to encourage them to engage in dialogue to promote peace and stability in the region.
Q Scott, organizers of the Minuteman Project were here in Washington this week and they were claiming success for their 20-day effort patrolling -- they say legally patrolling -- a stretch of the U.S.-Mexican border. I'm wondering if the White House has any -- had any chance to review their efforts at all, and what the President's view is of citizens taking this kind of action?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard any update from any -- official government update on the activities along the border. I think the President and we've expressed our views on this issue and made our views known. The President's initial concern was that people who are armed might be taking matters into their own hands, instead of letting the appropriate authorities deal with these matters. The President believes very strongly that people ought to report suspicious activity to the proper authorities and let the proper authorities address it. And so any concern that we have would be with, you know, loosely group of armed individuals trying to take matters into their own hands.
Q They claim they were giving just that, they were reporting suspicious behavior.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I pointed out the difference in our concerns. If people are simply reporting suspicious activity to the proper authorities for them to follow up and act on, that's a different matter.
Q So if they do that without weapons then the President would welcome that sort of activity?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I would leave it there. I'm not going to try to speculate a hypothetical situation. But that's the distinction I would make.
Q They're not vigilantes, in other words.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, Les?
Q The Minutemen are not vigilantes.
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the President's comments earlier during the summit down in Waco? Is that what you're referring to?
Q Where he -- I think he --
MR. McCLELLAN: And that was before -- let's --
Q -- certainly implied that all these people were vigilantes.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think --
Q And I don't know they hanged anybody. I never heard of them hanging anybody.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that was a question that was asked before some of those activities took place, and there were a lot of reports about people taking things into their own hands. And that would be something that would greatly concern the administration.
Q The Minutemen didn't take it into their own hands, did they?
MR. McCLELLAN: You've had your questions, thank you.
Q How long has the President been --
MR. McCLELLAN: I was pointing behind you, but that's okay.
Q It's all right, you go ahead.
Q The President last night called upon the new Iraqi Prime Minister not to politicize the Iraqi army. Does the President have any reason to believe this is what's happening to the Iraqi army now?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. The President was simply talking about the importance of continuing to build upon the progress that is being made in training and equipping the Iraqi security forces. He has received very positive updates from General Casey and General Petraeus about the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. That's an important part of completing our mission in Iraq. The President wants to make sure that the Iraqi forces are trained and equipped and have a command structure in place to deal with the threats that they face themselves, so then at that point our troops would be able to return home with honor.
There are obviously difficult challenges that are ahead for the new transitional government. The President was glad to speak with Prime Minister Ja'afari yesterday and congratulate him on his election. The President praised him for his courage. And the two leaders talked about the importance of continuing an ongoing dialogue and continuing to have regular contact as the Iraqi people move forward to build a peaceful, democratic and free future. We are going to continue to do everything we can, along with the rest of the international community, to support the transitional government as they move forward on drafting a constitution, and as they move forward on conducting elections for a permanent government.
And as the President pointed out, they had a very good discussion about the constitution, as well, and the importance of continuing on the timetable that was set out, of August. And there appears to be that commitment from the Iraqi leadership to move on that timetable. They recognize the importance of moving forward on the political process, and the importance of moving forward on the economic and reconstruction front, as well as the security front, because all those will help to defeat the determined enemy of democracy in Iraq.
There is a determined enemy. We saw their latest attacks today. They have no regard for innocent civilian life. They have no regard for the Iraqi people. They want to do everything they can to stop the transition from democracy -- transition to democracy. They will be defeated. And I think you are seeing that the Iraqi security forces are performing admirably and stepping up and addressing those security threats themselves. And we appreciate what they're doing.
Q Yes, how long has the President been familiar with and supported the Pozen plan?
Q -- a lot of respect for the Iraqi people, who shot them all --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, hang on. Say that again?
Q How long has the President been familiar with and supported the Pozen plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you know that he's been talking about it recently and expressed some interest in Mr. Pozen's approach. He was a member of the President's bipartisan commission on Social Security. And so this is something he's been looking at for some time.
Q So is this the one?
MR. McCLELLAN: Is what the one?
Q Is this the plan that the President wants to see go forward?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the plan is a permanent solution along with personal accounts. And he believes that when we fix Social Security that this progressive indexing approach ought to be part of the overall solution, along with personal accounts. Because as the President said last night, we have a shared responsibility to address this problem. And we have a shared responsibility to make the system better for our children and grandchildren.
Again, nothing changes for those who are retired today. The system is working fine for them. Nothing changes for those that were born prior to 1950, those near retirement that were born before that time period. What we're talking about doing is making sure that Social Security is there for people in my generation and younger generations, because I think most of us believe, and recognize, right now, under the current system, it's not going to be there for them. And I think they recognize the benefit and the opportunity that personal accounts presents, as well.
Q On the progressive indexing, the President, last night, said that low-income benefits would rise faster than the well off, but he didn't really put it in the context of middle class. And there's a lot of critics out there saying that they would be very hard hit if, for the middle class, he used a combination of wage indexing and price indexing.
MR. McCLELLAN: They're going to be hard hit under the current system if we do nothing. Those individuals who are criticizing these proposals have offered no ideas of their own. They need to come forward with ideas and come to the table and work with us to achieve a bipartisan solution that will permanently fix Social Security and make it better for our children and grandchildren. That's what the American people expect. You know, no ideas is not a solution.
Q Scott, following up on that, when you say low-income benefits rise, that describes people in what income brackets -- from what to what dollars?
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe you missed what I was saying earlier. Under the Pozen approach -- I mean, it's those in the lower 30 percent that would be -- the lowest 30 percent that would be --
Q Okay, so the lowest 30 percent would have ceiling of, what, $25,000, $35,000?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can look at the Pozen approach. We're going to be working with Congress. As I said, the President is not endorsing every element of it, but it's that approach that he believes ought to be part of a comprehensive solution that would include personal accounts, as well.
Q So, put another way, then, you're not going to name figures, but that's a number that will be negotiated with Congress?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a number we'll work through with Congress on the legislation as part of a comprehensive solution, yes.
Go ahead, Ed.
Q Scott, can I follow up on that? So another way to try to understand this is, is it that the middle class of today, when they reach retirement, will collect more than the post-reform middle class?
MR. McCLELLAN: The middle class of today will -- I'm sorry?
Q Right, when they reach --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you saying, under the current system if nothing is done? Is that what you're asking?
Q No -- well, let's talk about the near-retirees, then. I mean, basically, we're trying to compare two -- two segments of the population and we're wondering if the people in one particular group after these changes will collect less in benefits than those that would today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Under the current system? Are you asking under the current system?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because the current system, as I pointed out, the Social Security Administration pointed out that in 2041, all beneficiaries under the current system would receive a cut of 27 percent in their benefits. And that would hit the lowest-income workers the hardest, because they don't have those extra savings set aside in other retirement plans, typically. And the poverty rate would also double, from about 2 percent to 4 percent for beneficiaries who are between the ages of 64 and 78. These are -- this is what the Social Security Administration has pointed out.
And so if you're talking about under the current system versus under our approach, they're going to be better off, they're going to be --
Q He's talking --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, I'm coming to that. They're going to be better off under the approach that we're taking than the current system.
Q How about -- let me -- can I try once more? What about the people who are in retirement now and are collecting --
MR. McCLELLAN: Nothing changes.
Q Let me finish. But they -- these are people -- you take the people who are retired now and are collecting benefits, you take those who were in the middle class, before they retire. Okay? Are those people now, who are in retirement, are they going to have more than the middle class of post-reform?
MR. McCLELLAN: Those people that are currently retired? Well, I think the last -- the President last night pointed out -- the President pointed out last night that all should receive benefits as good as or better than those who are currently retired, as he pointed out.
But you have to look at it, too, in the context of personal accounts. Let's not leave out personal accounts because the President is saying, here's an opportunity for you, if you choose, to realize much more than what the Social Security system could deliver for you. And that's an important part of the President's comprehensive solution; that's why we need to move forward and not only permanently fix it, but give younger Americans the opportunity to invest in personal accounts, as well.
But let's go to the bottom line here, because, I mean, you were asking a question. You have to look at -- you have to compare it to the current system and what the current system can deliver, not what it can promise, because we know it can't deliver what it promises.
And so that's why I said, when you compare it, this approach will be better for the class of Americans you're reporting to and would help them realize more, and possibly even much more if they chose to invest in personal accounts. And at some point, Democratic leaders have to stop just blocking solutions and come to the table with ideas because the American people know there are problems facing the system. Democratic leaders have now acknowledged, okay, there are problems facing the system, yet they can refuse to offer any ideas for a solution. I think the American people want to see them, instead of engaging in partisan politics, offering constructive ideas for bipartisan solutions.
Q Scott, could I ask one quick technical question about the Pozen plan? He envisions a hike in the wage ceiling. Does the President support that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, what he's -- he hasn't endorsed every single element of the Pozen plan. It's the approach that he has put forward. And we want to make sure that the lowest income Americans continue on the current system under what is promised and that they would be able to receive what is actually promised, but today won't be delivered if we continued on the status quo path.
And so that's the approach that he's taking. We're going to continue working closely with Congress, but what he proposed last night is what he said in his remarks and what was put out in our fact sheet, as well.
Q Scott, if the Pozen plan takes care of 70 percent of the problem, leaving you 30 percent, what -- all the options the President has mentioned during the 60-day tour, those remain on the table, like raising the retirement age?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's not -- this is not the time to be ruling things out. The President has made that very clear. And this is a time --
Q Is he going to leave it up to Congress to fill the 30 percent, or is --
MR. McCLELLAN: He said he welcomes all ideas for advancing a bipartisan solution.
Q Is he going to come up with more proposals like he did last night, and offer them?
MR. McCLELLAN: We hope Democrats would start coming to the table with their ideas. But there are a number of different ways and ideas that have been discussed to address that remaining 30 percent. There could be a combination of ideas within that, as well. And the President looks forward to working with Congress to -- but this takes us quite a bit of the ways there towards finding a permanent solution.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you. Have a good weekend.
END 1:07 P.M. EDT