Social security 'blooper' damage to Reagan image not long-lasting
Washington — President Reagan's hastily put together social security proposal has hurt him politically. But the damage is small and only temporary. This is the assessment from political observers here of Mr. Reagan's plan for discouraging early retirement, his first action as President that has drawn general public disapproval.
From all around the United States come reports of people who are quite upset over a plan that would make it much more difficult financially for them to retire at age 62. But the reports also show that people are also saying they are glad the President is deeply concerned about the plight of social security and is giving it top priority.
Political ripples from the President's proposal include:
* The White House quickly made it known that it will look favorably on a compromise proposal. This conciliatory move tended to blunt the adverse reaction.
Murray Weidenbaum, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters over breakfast on Wednesday that "in hindsight" it might have been better if he and others who conceived the plan had consulted more "with our friends on Capitol Hill."
Mr. Weidenbaum said the plan was discussed entirely on the basis of "substance" and not on politics.
* From Congress have come assurances, by Republicans and Democrats alike, that there will be no passage of a bill that cuts into the expections of those planning for early retirement.
However, there seems to be a considerable amount of sentiment now in both Senate and House for encouraging workers to stay on the job beyond age 65 by allowing them to receive partial and increasing amounts of the social security due them until at age 68 they receive their full allotment.
* There was a certain amount of Democratic exultation over what was seen as a major Reagan blooper. But that has considerably subsided. As a congressional leader says, "Reagan has too much momentum going for him to be slowed down much over this social security mistake."