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Women Take Social Security Stage

With just a week to go before the election, President Clinton challenged the Republican congressional leadership to put Social Security funding before tax cuts next year, and proposed more generous benefits for women, more of whom vote for Democrats than Republicans. CBS News Correspondent Bill Plante has the report.

Participants at a White House round table pointedly noted that in addition to often having to support families, women usually outlive men. Wilma Haga has depended on Social Security since her husband died eight years ago.

"I'm proud I can live independently without the assistance of my sons," says Haga.

The president made two proposals to increase retirement security for women. First, time off from work under the family and medical leave act should be credited toward pensions. And, couples should be given the choice of taking less pension money while both are alive so the survivor can receive more.

Managing Your Money
"The hard fact remains that too many retired women, after providing for their families, are having trouble providing for themselves," Mr. Clinton said.

Since the beginning of the year, Mr. Clinton has demanded that congress not spend the budget surplus for anything else until it assures the long-term solvency of Social Security. The system is projected to run out of money in roughly 30 years.

Calling on the next congress to reform the entire Social Security system, Mr. Clinton recalled that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said recently he didn't know if he could trust the president enough to work with him on Social Security.

In response, the president said, "I hope that's just election season rhetoric. After all, they were willing to work with the insurance lobby to kill the patient's bill of rights. I think the Senate Majority Leader will be able to find time to work with me to save Social Security, and I certainly hope so."

Despite all the talk about not squandering the surplus, the president and the republicans have actually already spent more than a quarter of this year's budget surplus, which would not exist except for the fact that current Social Security taxes exceed the benefits being paid out.

And if the next Congress looks anything like the last one, it could prove very difficult for Mr. Clinton to get the kind of Social Security reform he could accept at the same time he is trying to avoid impeachment.

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