President Bush concluded his five-state tour by promoting his new Social Security plan at the Tampa Convention center Friday afternoon. He believes that Social Security will be bankrupt within 50 years and that his privatization plan is the best way to prevent that.
“I think now is the time to take on the issue,” Bush said. “And that’s exactly what I intend to do. That’s why I have been to five states and that’s why I’m going to continue traveling our country, saying to the American people, ‘Here’s the problem.'”
The crowd itself was about 1,000 strong, all of whom were specially invited. The invitees were chosen by Republican members of Congress or were people that campaigned for the president in the past election. Bush showed up a surprising 30 minutes early, leaving a few members of the press — as well as ticket-holding event goers — out in the cold.
The president took questions from pre-selected audience members; surprisingly enough, he was given fairly easy questions.
It was, according to the St. Petersburg Times, a “carbon copy” of his other four stops.
In fact in both North Dakota and Montana, the same person, a finance professor from Illinois, got to speak with the Bush.
The president asked him if he had any problems with the proposed private retirement accounts.
The professor replied with a resounding, “Absolutely not.” That is a fair microcosm of the discussions Bush had at the town hall-style meetings.
There were protests, but they were restricted to a few blocks away, on the side of the Tampa Museum of Art opposite of the convention center. They were surrounded by plenty of cops to ensure order. “Freedom of speech, if you say it where we want it,” griped one of the protestors by the museum.
They were very visible to the people stuck in traffic, though, as most downtown roads were completely shut down while the president’s motorcade traveled to the Convention Center. The protestors ranged from college students to the elderly, but it was overall a much older crowd than most people would expect of a protest march.
Some brought their own signs, but most people were given neon green signs that read, “Privatization = $152,000 benefit cut.”