On the January 20 edition of FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle asserted that Democrats oppose any attempts to reform the Social Security system. Reporting on President Bush's inauguration speech, Angle stated without evidence: "the goal of Social Security reform has vigorous opposition from the Democrats, so he [Bush] has his work cut out for him there." In fact, Democrats have said that they do not oppose Social Security reform or even private accounts -- they only oppose diverting payroll taxes from Social Security to fund such accounts.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) have suggested specific ways of addressing the program's projected shortfall. As MSNBC reported on January 21, Stabenow stated: "Speaking for myself, I think it would be reasonable to ask [the] wealthiest Americans to accept 80 percent ... rather than 100 percent" of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to keep the system solvent; she noted that Senate Democrats have expressed "substantial support" for that approach. On the January 16 edition of CBS's Face the Nation, Kennedy asserted that when Social Security is approaching insolvency, "All you have to do is raise the payroll tax on that and that would solve most of the kind of a problem that you'd have."
In reporting that Democrats oppose "the goal of Social Security reform," Angle accepted that Bush's plan to divert a portion of payroll taxes to fund private investment accounts is the only available option for "reforming" Social Security. But many Democrats, including Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, reject this notion of "reform." According to a December 10, 2004, article, Emanuel said: "Their strategy is, we're going to scare people, cut benefits, privatize and call it a reform agenda."
Democrats have also said that they support private retirement accounts as long as they are not funded at the expense of guaranteed Social Security benefits. Washington Post staff writer Jonathan Weisman reported January 20 that under Democratic plans to provide independently funded private accounts, "Social Security would remain essentially unchanged as a stable, defined retirement benefit, but benefits could be slightly reduced and taxes slightly raised through a variety of mechanisms to keep it solvent as baby boomers retire."
Weisman highlighted a plan by Clinton National Economic Council chair Gene Sperling, who "has proposed a 3 percent surcharge on incomes more than $200,000." On the January 16 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, Emanuel advocated "a universal 401(k) plan," which, according to the Post's report, would be financed "by maintaining inheritance taxes on the largest estates."