N.C. Rep.: Social Security Changes Bad for Farmers

President Bush's proposal to allow taxpayers to invest part of their Social Security taxes would have an amplified, negative effect on farm families who depend on the government program in retirement, Rep. Bob Etheridge (search), D-N.C., said Saturday.

"Farm families have tight budgets, and most don't have access to employer retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans. In fact, three out of four farmers fund their own retirement. They depend on Social Security when the crop yield is low or the weather is bad," Etheridge, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a part-time farmer, said in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address.

Etheridge, who co-chairs the Democratic House Rural Working Group with Rep. Stephanie Herseth (search), D-S.D., spoke as public polls show tepid support for Bush's call to allow younger workers to create voluntary personal accounts funded out of their Social Security payroll taxes.

Democrats accuse the White House of seeking to privatize the Depression-era program, while supporters of the accounts argue they are needed to modernize it.

Etheridge said rural Americans usually are older and more likely to rely on the Social Security benefits.

"Take my mother-in-law, for example," he said. "She lives in rural North Carolina and relies on her monthly Social Security check to help pay her bills. Across the country, women like her find it harder to make ends meet than most other Americans. Under privatization, thousands of women like my mother-in-law would tragically fall into poverty."

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll earlier this month found 37 percent of Americans support Bush's handling of Social Security, while 59 percent disapprove. Those numbers hadn't budged after more than four months of the president barnstorming the U.S. to sell his plan to create private accounts in Social Security.