Democratic presidential-nomination hopeful Barack Obama continued his blunt attacks on Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday, asserting that she dodged questions concerning Social Security.
During a trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the freshman senator from Illinois addressed the issue to an older crowd of around 200 at the city's public library.
In what seems to be his new strategy, Obama frequently contrasted himself with Rodham Clinton. He accused the Democratic frontrunner of sidestepping questions about Social Security at both the last Democratic debate as well as during her recent trip to Iowa.
Rodham Clinton holds the classic Washington mindset on this issue, he said, contending that she is not alone in ducking it.
Some observers say Obama is trying to shake up the political polls, in which Rodham Clinton is far ahead, by saying she is vague about her arguments and has spent too much time in Washington.
He said he wants to be honest about his stance on Social Security.
"I think that on issues as fundamental as how to protect Social Security, candidates for president owe it to the American people to tell us where they stand," he said. "I don't think you're ready to lead if you can't tell us where you're going."
He said there is a need for change because of the always evaporating Social Security pool of money, but he is opposed to privatization.
President Bush attempted to pass a privatization bill, Obama said, because he believes the entire Social Security system has failed; however, he believes changes can be made to help the "sound" underlying system succeed.
"We want to encourage people to save and invest in the stock market but just not your Social Security dollars," he said.
This is possible without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age, he asserted.
At present, only the first $97,500 of income is taxed, making an overwhelming majority of Americans pay Social Security taxes on everything they earn. Obama wants to raise the ceiling so the wealthiest citizens pay more toward Social Security.
Mike Kehoe, a West Branch, Iowa, resident and self-described "Obama groupie," said he was impressed with the candidate's stance on Social Security. He noted he has seen him speak several times but has never heard him speak about this issue.
"There are a lot of older people in this state," he said. "His comments seemed very common-sensical to me."
Unlike Kehoe, Connie Birmingham, who is from a rural part of Marion, Iowa, said she is not set on one candidate yet. She noted Rodham Clinton was "terrific" but she hasn't heard her speak about Social Security yet.
She said Iraq and health care top her list of important issues, but she agrees with Obama when he said politicians' stances on Social Security need to be more transparent.
"Everyone needs to have a clear stance," she said. "It has been a third rail in Washington -- politicians are terrified of it."
© 2007 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE