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Nation

Bush appeals to youth

| Wednesday, June 15, 2005

STATE COLLEGE -- President Bush took a fresh appeal for his Social Security overhaul to people mostly below voting age, saying the nation's young have a huge stake in whatever change comes about.

"I've come here today to tell you that there are some of us in Washington, D.C., who do not want to leave you saddled with a retirement system that's going broke," Bush said Tuesday, speaking to a convention of the Pennsylvania FFA -- formerly known as the Future Farmers of America -- at Pennsylvania State University.

He encouraged the students to call members of Congress to encourage them to support his plan.

Younger Americans like the Pennsylvania high school students that Bush visited potentially would be the most affected by his plan to offer private investment accounts in place of guaranteed Social Security benefits.

Bush stood on an auditorium stage with about 300 students in blue and gold FFA membership jackets sitting on risers behind him. Several hundred more students, in the same uniform of membership jacket, and black slacks or skirts, were there as well.

Bush said he wants to "make sure the system is a better deal for younger workers" and the president assured older people in the audience that they would continue to get their promised benefits.

The students would get the same benefits that seniors today get, Bush said, without getting into the impact increases in the cost of living will have over the next 50 years.

Bush rode to the campus with legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and got even bigger applause when he pointed that out during his talk on Social Security. Bush also won applause when he urged Congress to permanently end the estate taxes and approve liberalized trade with Central American nations -- two other measures that he said would help farmers.

Bush may have been using the students in the crowd to make his point about Social Security, but several said they didn't follow the debate or spend any time thinking about whether the program will be around for them when they retire.

"I'll wait until I'm older," said 16-year-old Daniel Snook from Mifflinburg, Union County.

Polls show three-fourths of people between 18 and 29 feel that Social Security in its present form is going to run out of money at some point. Most adults under 50 were likely to feel this way, according to an AP-Ipsos poll in early May.

Those older than 50 had doubts about the financial future of the system, but their level of concern was lower than that of younger adults.

Bush has held Social Security events in 26 states, and yesterday marked his second stop in Pennsylvania on the issue.

Before visiting Penn State, Bush spoke at a fund-raiser for Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn Hills, at a supporter's home in Bryn Mawr, an upscale Philadelphia suburb.

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