Students React to State of the Union
Students React to State of the Union
February 3, 2005 3:40 PM
President George W. Bush unveiled his plans to fix Social Security by creating voluntary personal retirement accounts as an alternative to traditional benefits in his State of the Union address Wednesday night.
Regardless of the political wording, the idea of investing Social Security benefits in the stock market is something that will affect SF State students, professors and the entire country.
“This is a radical change in the way we deal with social policy and is a fundamental change in how we decide to provide care to elderly people,” said Francis Neely, professor of political science at SF State.
Right now, every person receives the same Social Security benefits, regardless of their income, but if the Bush proposal passes, a person’s benefits would be determined by the course of the changing stock market.
“The people who have more money already have investments in stocks and bonds," Neely said. "The risk is someone who would rely solely on their Social Security in their later years would invest in the market and it would not pay off."
The president said the Social Security reform he endorses will affect all U.S. citizens under the age of 55, which has students concerned for themselves and their parents as well.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” said Jackie Yanofsky, a 21-year-old health education major whose parents are 48 and 51, under the cut-off age.
“They have worked a sufficient amount in their lifetime. Granted they have time to prepare for it, but they still deserve it,” she said.
Bush did not say exactly how his proposed system of personal accounts would work, but it’s commonplace for presidents to avoid detailed explanations in the State of the Union address.
In fact, giving too many details can be a bad political move, according to Neely.
“As soon as they come up with specifics, democrats will attack those, specifically,” professor Neely said. “The advantage of putting it off is that he is out rounding up support for the reform in general.”
Bush’s speech was built upon the fact that political success is not determined by reality, but by the American public’s perception of reality, according to James Martel, assistant professor of political science.
Giving specifics is not Bush’s forte, Martel said, so instead he is laying the groundwork for a general plan before a specific one emerges. By introducing the idea in a positive light, Bush is more likely to succeed, Martel said.
Bush also addressed Pell Grants in his speech.
“We will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell grants,” Bush said.
Bush plans to increase the maximum size of Pell Grants from $4,050 to $4,550 over the next five years. However, the Department of Education released a new rule in December that will affect the number of students who qualify for Pell Grants. A report by the American Council on Education found that an estimated 1 million recipients will receive an average of $300 less in federal grant money.
SF State student reactions to the president’s speech are varied.
“I personally think that the creation of voluntary personal accounts is a good idea,” said Leo, a 33-year-old psychology major who declined to give his full name. He also supports Bush’s war on terrorism.
“We have not been attacked in three and a half years. Palestine had an election. Iraq had an election. The Ukraine had an election. For the moment I think it is working,” he said.
Other students are angered by the idea of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
“I think that is disgusting. I can’t believe they would try to define marriage,” said Brenda Malvini, a 19-year-old music major.
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