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News Briefs

Social Security Commission Passes Buck Back to Bush


The heads of a presidential commission -- warning that there is no painless solution to Social Security’s financial problems -- left it to President Bush on Thursday to decide whether to make affluent workers pay hundreds of dollars a year in additional taxes to help keep the retirement system solvent.

The commission, appointed by Bush to find ways to let workers control some of their own payroll taxes, is shaping three alternatives to present to him next month.

One plan would let workers invest about one-third of their taxes themselves, instead of sending all of the money to the government. Another would let them control about two-thirds of their taxes.

The final approach would add an individual investment fund to the existing program. The individual account would be fed by a payment of 1 percent of taxable wages by each worker, augmented by a government contribution of 2.5 percent.

The third plan might include an increase in the $80,400 on which workers now owe their Social Security taxes of 6.2 percent. Lifting the wage base to $85,000 a year would add about $285 a year to the tax bill of those who earn this much or more.

Man Poses as Firefighter, Scams New Yorkers After Sept. 11


A suspected con man who police say posed as a firefighter in New York and other states to take advantage of the Sept. 11 attacks was extradited from Pennsylvania Thursday.

Jerome Brandl, 34, had been held in the Mercer County Jail, just outside Pittsburgh, since Oct. 30. Police in Hermitage, Pa., arrested him early that morning on charges of driving a 1999 Mercedes-Benz stolen from a high-ranking government official in Wisconsin, officials said.

Two weeks ago, the Queens County district attorney’s office charged Brandl with scamming the New York Fire Department and city residents out of food, lodging, a ticket to Shea Stadium, money and other items following the World Trade Center disaster.

A Queens woman who met Brandl at the Mets game on Sept. 21 told police she let him to stay at her home for several days and loaned him $500 after he said he had lost his wallet. The woman said the visitor later took her ATM card and withdrew $880 from her bank account.

Brandl showed up at a Manhattan fire station on Sept. 18, saying he was a volunteer firefighter from Wisconsin. He quickly made friends at a place that lost two members in the tragedy, helping out with odd jobs and staying there as a guest. “Everybody hopes they throw the book at him,” said firefighter Joe Petrich.