The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

[Nazlee Navabi/The Daily Pennsylvanian] Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum enters Drexel's Creese Student Center amid protesters to speak on about Social Security reform.

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum made it clear yesterday that young Americans should be thinking about Social Security.

Both supporters and protesters awaited Santorum's arrival at Drexel University's LeBow College of Business yesterday for one of 10 forums on Social Security the senator is holding across the state.

Addressing what the Bush administration has called "a crisis," Santorum said that there is a declining number of workers able to support a growing population of retirees.

According to the senator, this is due to "a perfect storm of demographic trends," namely the decline in fertility rates, a longer average life expectancy and members of the baby boomer generation, who will begin retiring in the next three years.

He also mentioned that many Americans do not invest and plan for their retirement, a mistake he feels is compounded by our consumer-oriented nation.

Santorum said that under Bush's plan, citizens could voluntarily start personal retirement accounts.

One-third of one's payroll taxes would automatically go into this account, while the other two-thirds would remain in traditional Social Security.

Santorum also said he thinks about the president's proposed plan more in terms of "personalization" than privatization, saying that the misconception that Wall Street will be handling millions of private accounts is untrue.

Prior to the event, about 30 protesters and supporters from Penn lined up their forces.

"I'm glad that it was a very uneventful protest," said College junior Eric Rechtschaffen, president of the Penn College Republicans, adding that the protests were more civil than those during the election.

The Drexel University College Democrats protested before the event after the University declined their proposal to host a Democratic panelist alongside Santorum.

Drexel President Constantine Papadakis said that his administration "told students that we will have someone with the opposite viewpoint [visit] in the future."

However, Brad Levinson, president of the Drexel College Democrats, felt that a future forum would not suffice.

Because of this, the group requested the support of Democrats from both Penn and other universities and was met by protesters from various organizations who held up signs and handed out brochures.

On the other side of the debate was a group of Republicans in favor of Social Security reform.

Amid a mix of applause and angry outcries in the auditorium, Santorum discussed Bush's recent proposal to partially privatize the Social Security system.

He told the several hundred in attendance that reform "has to be a bipartisan effort."

Many Democrats do not agree with a reform, however, opting for minor changes instead.

Penn College Democrats President Jessica Smyth felt that although Social Security is important, "at the moment ... I think that there are more important [issues] on the public agenda."

She thinks such changes would be too risky, taking away the "safety net" that not only senior citizens, but also orphans and disabled Americans, depend on.

Two individual protesters -- supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche -- interrupted Santorum as he spoke until the senator requested that they politely voice their concerns during the question-and-answer session.

While their outcry voiced the opposite view, Rechtschaffen said, "The Democrats ... have tried to be obstructive to the President's agenda as opposed to working together to form bipartisan solutions."

One student felt he had no choice but to pay attention to the issue at hand.

College senior and Democrat Eli Lipschultz, who attended the event, said that upon graduation, he is going to have to pay off student loans, his own health insurance and his grandmother's Social Security.

Some members of the Penn community do not strongly oppose reforming Social Security, however.

Wharton Business and Public Policy Professor Olivia Mitchell, who served as a Democrat on the Commission to Strengthen Social Security in 2001, said that "whichever way the reform goes, it's going to have to be fixed."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.