(West Des Moines, IA) Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer used a Saturday appearance before about 70 Iowa members of the American Association of Retired Persons to criticize the Social Security reforms proposed by two of his rivals.

“There’s a basic disagreement here,” Bauer said. “I believe Social Security was a good program and is a good program and where I grew up, the elderly would be living in poverty without it, so I want to preserve it.”

While Bauer, a native of Kentucky, proposes a 20 percent reduction in the payroll tax charged to current workers, he opposes the idea of privatization of the system.

Magazine publisher Steve Forbes, a two-time GOP presidential candidate, has advocated allowing workers to invest half of their payroll taxes on their own in a more to privatization Forbes contends would earn those workers more for retirement.

Texas Governor George W. Bush, the front-runner for the Republican party’s next presidential nomination, advocates creation of private retirement investment accounts for individuals, but has not specified what amount or percentage of payroll taxes he favors diverting.

“Mr. Forbes and Mr. Bush have bought in to the privatization idea. They’re allowing current workers to take half of their money out. That only has one inevitable result: that will mean the phasing out of Social Security, and I think Mr. Forbes ought to be honest about it and quit trying to sell people the Social Security equivalent of a bad aluminum siding contract,” Bauer said.

Bauer said his two competitors for the GOP’s presidential nomination were fueling the fears of younger workers who believe there won’t be Social Security checks for them when they reach retirement age.

“Both Bush and Forbes are going down a road that is fairly typical in politics. They’re trying to tell everybody that they can have everything. They’re saying to current retirees, you have nothing to worry about, you’ll still get your money. They’re saying to current workers, you have nothing to worry about, we’ll let you take half of your money out of the system. What they’re failing to address is that it’s the money of current workers that’s paying the benefits of current retirees,” Bauer said.

Bauer was quizzed about several other issues during his appearance before the AARP group, issues like veteran’s benefits and Medicaid restructuring.

Republican candidate Orrin Hatch is set to meet with the group later this month and Democrat candidate Bill Bradley has a date in January. Vice President Al Gore appeared before an AARP group in New Hampshire.