WASHINGTON - Presidential candidates John Edwards and Fred Thompson said that the United States is facing a potential crisis in the Social Security system, but they disagreed on whether raising taxes will be necessary to head it off.
Edwards, interviewed today on CNN's "Late Edition," said the retirement-benefits program's payroll taxes must be applied to incomes higher than the current $97,500 limit, with a buffer zone for those making up to $200,000, to keep Social Security solvent in the future.
"Social Security is an enormous issue facing this country, Edwards, a Democrat, said. Voters "deserve to hear specifics" about what the candidates for president would do.
Thompson, a Republican, said on ABC's "This Week" that the country can't afford to let the bottom fall out from the program in the next three decades. He advocates curbing the growth of benefits and letting individuals set up private retirement accounts through Social Security.
The two former senators are attempting to keep pace with Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor.
McCain touts Iraq success
NEW LONDON, N.H. - Republican presidential hopeful John McCain said yesterday he can tell that the US troop increase in Iraq is having an effect on the violence there because Democrats, who generally oppose the war, have stopped linking him to the troop build-up.
President Bush sent thousands of additional troops to Iraq earlier this year in an effort to control violence. McCain, an Arizona senator and the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, had long called for sending more troops.
"When I first advocated this path to success, people like Senator [John] Edwards called it 'the McCain strategy,' 'the McCain surge.' It wasn't and it isn't. But I notice he doesn't say that anymore," McCain said.
McCain also notes, especially for antiwar voters, that he was an early critic of the war strategy waged by Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Defense secretary.
"The strategy was going to fail with Rumsfeld. I fought against. I spoke against," he said. "I said the strategy that we are using now is what we needed to succeed, and it is succeeding."
UAW chapter backs Obama
MARION, Iowa - Democrat Barack Obama criticized Hillary Clinton yesterday for her past support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying she had changed her mind about it only after becoming a presidential candidate.
"I think it's important to note that Senator Clinton was a cheerleader for NAFTA for more than a decade," Obama said at a news conference, at which he accepted the endorsement of a regional chapter of the United Auto Workers.
"I realize that changing your position to suit the politics of the moment might be smart campaign tactics but isn't the kind of strong, principled leadership America needs," Obama said.
The Illinois senator commented at the start of a two-day swing through Iowa, where voting begins on Jan. 3.
Obama, whose largest base of support lies with affluent and well-educated voters, has sought to burnish his credentials among middle- and working-class Democrats.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was passed in 1993 and eliminated most tariffs on goods traded between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.