Bush proposes domestic sweeps

Congress needs to act now and reform Social Security to ensure its existence for younger Americans, President George W. Bush said last night in his State of the Union address. This is Bush's first address since Sept. 11 that focused primarily on domestic issues.

Bush called on Congress to adopt "voluntary personal retirement accounts" before the system starts losing money in 2018.

He simultaneously tried to ease current retirees' fears that their benefits would be cut and warn future retirees of the projections that Social Security faces funding problems.

"I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way," Bush said in the 53-minute address.

Also on the domestic front, Bush said he also wants to simplify the tax code, limit medical malpractice lawsuits, ensure the passage of energy legislation and begin an initiative to end gang-related violence on city streets.

On the heels of a successful election in Iraq Sunday, Bush said freedom and democracy triumphed but offered no timetable for the return of U.S. troops, who he said were "adapting to circumstances."

Students at AU had mixed reactions to the speech.

Because baby boomers will be retiring in record numbers soon, Americans need to act now on Social Security, said Genevieve Frye, a sophomore in the School of Communication and treasurer of the AU College Republicans.

"When President Bush started talking about 2018 and 2030, it sounds like a long time, but it's really not," she said. "It's really important that we start taking significant precautions to protect our financial futures."

Previously, the administration used the term "privatization" in reference to its plan for Social Security but has since dropped it in favor of the more subtle "voluntary personal retirement accounts."

"It's more of the same that we've come to expect from this administration. When the facts don't fit, they try to change the language to fit the facts when they can't get around them," said Jessica Dillon, a senior in the School of Public Affairs and vice president of the D.C. Federation, an organization of local universities' college Democrats.

Republicans and Democrats agreed that the presence of Janet and Bill Norwood, the parents of Marine Sgt. Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed in the assault of Fallujah, and Safia Taleb al-Suhail, leader of the Iraqi Women's Political Council, was emotional and moving.

"That to me is the most powerful image of what the United States can do and what President Bush has done for our country," said Joy Downey, a senior in the School of International Service and member of the College Republicans.

Jon Dawood, a sophomore in SPA and treasurer of the AU College Democrats, also commented on Iraq.

"The Iraqi vote is great if it actually holds, but the president seems to have forgotten that we went in there for our safety, for weapons of mass destruction that are nowhere to be found," Dawood said.

Eagle Staff Writers Lauren Gardner and Kelly Kerr

contributed to this report.

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