It appears President Bush is about to reveal the one thing that everyone in the mutual fund industry has been eagerly anticipating: details on his controversial proposal to privatize a portion of Social Security.
Exactly when the president might lay out his plan to ensure the 75-year-old program's solvency is another matter; but the White House seems to have finally lifted its unspoken gag order on the issue.
"At the right time, the president will state his views in a more specific way about how to fix the system permanently," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who did not offer a timetable, in a report published late last week by the Capitol Hill newsletter Congress Daily.
While the fund industry has largely reserved judgment on the president's plan, which initially includes diverting about 4% of payroll taxes from Social Security into private accounts that would consist of a mix of stock and bond funds. It's likely that management of all those new accounts would be left up to a leading money manager. Opponents to the plan suggest that it could be a financial windfall for Wall Street, while many fund industry insiders have argued that it will amount to nothing more than a massive management headache.
McClellan's remarks were prompted over questioning surrounding a meeting between the president and leading Republican lawmakers that had occurred earlier in the day. At the meeting, Congress Daily reported, lawmakers advised Bush that it might be time to move discussion about Social Security reform away from the program's actuarial problems and towards a detailed solvency solution. The group also discussed ways to reassure seniors that any changes made Social Security wouldn't impact their benefits and ways to rally support among young people for fixing the system.
As far as private accounts, an idea that has drawn staunch criticism from Democrats and high-powered groups like the AARP and AFL-CIO, people present for the closed-door meeting said the topic received "no push back" from the G.O.P. contingent.