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Gore Calls Bush's Social Security Plan 'Roulette'


ORLANDO, Fla. — With his 87-year-old mother watching from the front row of a hall filled with 8,000 retirees, Vice President Al Gore on Wednesday stepped up the intensity of his attacks on Texas Gov. George W. Bush's plan to allow workers to switch some of their Social Security payroll taxes to personal investment accounts.

"You shouldn't be asked to play stock market roulette with your Social Security program, and you shouldn't be asked to foot the bill for those who play and lose," Gore told the convention of the AARP (formerly known as the American Assn. of Retired Persons).

The future of Social Security, which provides retirement, disability and survivor benefits to more than 44 million people each month, has become a hot issue in the presidential campaign.

Bush would allow private investment of some retirement funds as a way to strengthen and preserve the system while giving workers more control over their own money. Gore views it as the first step toward dismantling what he calls the most successful of all government programs.

"I don't believe your retirement security should be up for discussion," Gore said, insisting that the current program is sound and can be extended for decades more with the use of future budget surpluses from a booming economy.

Bush hasn't spelled out details of his plan, saying the blueprint could be prepared by a bipartisan commission he will select if he is elected president.

Gore said the Bush plan might cost as much as $1 trillion. A Bush spokesman scoffed at the estimate. "Just as Al Gore invented the Internet, he will invent numbers," Ari Fleischer, the Bush spokesman, said in Houston.

Bush, who was campaigning in Washington state on Wednesday, fired back at Gore, accusing the vice president of trying to "scare the elderly and frighten people."

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