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The Trail

Saturday, June 14, 2008

SOCIAL SECURITY

Obama Offers Details

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sen. Barack Obama said Friday that as president he would impose a Social Security tax increase on people making more than $250,000 a year as part of an effort to extend the program's solvency without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.

Currently, taxes funding Social Security end once a worker reaches $102,000 in earnings, a ceiling that is indexed to inflation. Workers and employees share the cost, with each contributing 6.2 percent. Under Obama's plan, which the presumptive Democratic nominee outlined at a retirement community here, there would be a "doughnut hole" on earnings between $102,000 and $250,000 where no additional taxes are paid.

Obama has spoken of such a concept before, but Friday marked the first time he had set a threshold for imposing new taxes. Obama was vague on whether that figure would apply only to payroll income.

Obama said the change "can extend the promise of Social Security without shifting the burden on to seniors" while leaving "absolutely no change" in taxes for 97 percent of Americans.

During a one-hour discussion with the retirees, Obama tweaked Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, for having once expressed interest in a payroll tax increase and President Bush's plan to create private investment accounts for retirees.

McCain, speaking in New Jersey on Friday, called Social Security "broken" and denied that he would "privatize" Social Security. But he acknowledged wanting "younger workers only" to contribute "a few of their tax dollars" and "put it into an account with their name on it."

-- Glenn Kessler

CLINTON SUPPORTERS

McCain Will Be Calling

Sen. John McCain is reaching out to Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters this weekend, holding a conference call on Saturday with disenchanted Democrats who do not want to get behind Sen. Barack Obama.

McCain praised Clinton at a news conference Friday, saying: "There's no doubt that she has inspired millions of women around the country, and the world." He is seeking to tap into a strong current of resistance among Clinton supporters who think that she was mistreated during the primary and that the presumptive Democratic nominee is not experienced enough.

On a conference call with the Clinton campaign's New England steering committee earlier in the week, Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe was met with hostility from several prominent Clinton bundlers who said they were not ready to begin raising money for Obama, one person familiar with the call said.

A Clinton adviser said that the campaign has been conducting similar calls all week, trying to recruit for Obama, but that "there a significant number of our donors who are not ready yet to jump in with both feet."

"People are tired, but more importantly they need to see, and guess haven't seen yet, the respect that Hillary deserves and earned," the adviser said.

Ellen Malcolm, the president of Emily's List, said she is still going through the "stages of grief," and sensed similar unease during a conference of her group's major donors in Washington on Friday.

"There are still a lot of upset folks, and I'm one of them," Malcolm said. Nonetheless, she said, she got a "loud cheer" when she urged hundreds of her donors to help elect Obama.

McCain is hoping to tap into the hard feelings. Women for Fair Politics, which organized women voters for Clinton in the Buckeye State, has now shared its volunteer lists with McCain; his campaign e-mailed them on Friday to invite them to join the conference call.

McCain will participate in the 3:30 p.m. call. His campaign confirmed the call but did not say where the town hall meeting would be held.

-- Anne E. Kornblut and Juliet Eilperin

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