Transcript: The Battle Over Social Security

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 31, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: First, a demonstration of another kind in Washington, D.C. Thursday — the fight over the privatization of Social Security. Members of the AFL-CIO were out in force. Just how hot will this fight get?

Let's ask Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, one of President Bush's key advisors in the push for reform. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

So, you were out there in the front lines in the battle to bring personal accounts to Americans, to reform Social Security. Do we have traction here?

MIKE LEAVITT, HHS SECRETARY: Well, we have a problem. We have a promise that we`ve made as a nation. And we don't have the money to back it up. And we`ve got to resolve that.

Perhaps best put by a man I saw in Portland, Maine, Wednesday, who said, "I'm with the president to solve this problem." There was a banner behind me that said protect America's seniors. He said, "The banner is wrong. It shouldn't be protect America's seniors. I'm over 55, and I'll be OK. It's America's young people that need this solution."

BUTTNER: And in fact, young people do support this — the move to personal accounts — much more than older people. But in the polls, there seems to be a problem. There's waning support for this. There's a lot of skepticism. Is the president selling this well enough?

LEAVITT: What the president is succeeding in doing is stimulating a national discussion. He wants a climate of ideas. He said if you have ideas, put them up. There's only two rules: One, if you're over 55, you're OK. The second is we're not going to raise payroll taxes. Now let's hear the rest of your ideas. And it's time for people to put ideas up.

BUTTNER: The Democrats really don't have anything to win by bringing forth ideas, though. This is an incredibly divisive political topic. The president, quite frankly, has been very brave even bringing it up as a topic.

But why do you think that the Democrats, the other side, might bring forth some ideas when this is a very, very difficult issue that could cost them politically?

LEAVITT: People plead for leadership in their political leaders. There's a point in the life of every problem when it's big enough you can see, but small enough you can solve. And that's precisely where we are with Social Security.

And the president's very squarely placed it on the table and said to the Democrats and the Republicans, let's find a solution. Let's do it while it's still small enough. If we act, we'll solve it. If we don't, it will plague future generations.

BUTTNER: Well, we will be watching this quite closely as well. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. A pleasure having you here Thursday.

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