WASHINGTON - Though financial services executives probably would manage more of Americans' retirement savings if President Bush's plan to privatize part of the Social Security system becomes law, few are expected to be appointed to the White House commission being formed to sell the plan.
The White House is expected today to name the 14 members of a bipartisan group that is to recommend what portion of Social Security taxes Americans should be allowed to invest privately and is to market the controversial plan to Congress and the public.
"You don't want the commission to look like a bunch of fat cats from Wall Street who want to line their pockets," said a source familiar with the panel's goals.
The commission, expected to be filled with moderates who already support partial privatization of Social Security, will probably be able to draw on the banking experience of Richard D. Parsons, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Dime Bancorp who now is co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner Inc.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Mr. Parsons and the former New York senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, would be co-chairmen of the group. Neither the White House nor Mr. Parsons' office would confirm the report.
"With a former financial services guy at the top, you don't need a lot of other people from the industry," the source said. "The objective is to sell what is recommended to the public and Congress, so having financial services representatives on it is of secondary importance."
However, industry officials said they are ready to advise on the technicalities of setting up the accounts.
"We're prepared to work with the commission to make sure any private account is workable," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "We can particularly add expertise in the design of the accounts, which will have to have a low-cost structure at the beginning," because experts say the average individual would be able to contribute only $100 to $200 a year.
Though the White House has not provided any details as to how the privatization plan would work, analysts have speculated that individuals would be able to invest 2% of their contributions, which would equal about $13.2 billion a year.
The commission is expected to focus less on the substance of the privatization plan and more on the political task of selling it to lawmakers and Americans wary of exposing their savings to the risks of the stock market. The specifics of how the plan would work, including the level of investment, are expected to be developed by White House officials and announced by the commission this fall.