CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - Social Security, the New Deal-era program credited with keeping millions of elderly people out of poverty, turned 70 on Sunday with Americans rallying around it and President George W. Bush as determined as ever to give it a makeover.
The debate over the future of the program, created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, has quieted down recently after Bush made it the centerpiece of his domestic agenda earlier this year.
Many Republicans now see only a slim chance for the passage this year of Social Security legislation that includes Bush's goal of creating private investment accounts.
Passions on both sides of the issue still run high. Bush shows no sign of backing away from his plan, and Democrats are eager to attack the president on an idea that has proved unpopular with the public.
Bush, in a statement, called Social Security a "vital program" that has a hole in its safety net. That came a day after Democrats devoted their weekly radio address to the subject and renewed their vow to block private accounts.
"I'm guessing it's not going to go anywhere unless there's significant Democratic support," said William Niskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.
Niskanen said that despite Bush's repeated warnings about the financial woes Social Security will face in coming decades as the baby boom generation retires, the program is an "embedded part of our fiscal picture."
"I think that it may very well take a Democratic president -- maybe the combination of a Democratic president and a Republican Congress" to revamp Social Security, he added.