ABC News - WPVI (Philadelphia)

Bush Protestors Plan For N.J. Visit

ABC News / WPVI (Philadelphia) — Tuesday, March 1, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speakers ranging from a congressman to a college student are scheduled to protest President Bush's plan to create personal accounts under Social Security when he comes to New Jersey on Friday to talk about his proposal.

The speeches will be made at a rally before Bush's town hall-style meeting at the Westfield, N.J., armory with a hand-picked audience, said Staci Berger, political director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

Berger said hundreds of people have contacted the group asking about participating in the protest.

"People are pretty outraged," Berger said during a conference call to discuss Friday's visit. "The president has come to New Jersey probably six or seven times in his tenure and I've never seen a response like this. People recognize this as an enormous threat to their financial security and a threat to their future."

The president has proposed a system of private accounts, which would enable younger workers to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into stock market investments. At campaign-style events around the country, Bush has stressed the current system's problems and the benefits of personal accounts.

Speakers at the protest rally are to include Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, a Ramapo College student, a senior citizen and a Roselle, N.J., councilman, Berger said.

According to the most recent figures available from the Social Security Administration, 1.3 million New Jersey residents received Social Security benefits in December 2002. That included nearly 936,000 retired workers and 131,000 widows and widowers. Social Security beneficiaries represented 15.8 percent of the state's total population.

New Jersey Citizen Action is working with Americans United to Protect Social Security, a coalition of more than 200 organizations formed, at the urging of Democratic congressional leaders, to defeat Bush's proposal.

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