updated 9/20/2006 9:32:52 AM ET 2006-09-20T13:32:52

Presidential candidates must be forced to address Social Security reform, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Tuesday during a visit to Iowa aimed at doing just that.

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Armey said he's organizing people in key states such as Iowa, where the leadoff precinct caucuses traditionally launch the nominating season, to spark debate on the issue.

"I want to develop a group of people here and in New Hampshire and in South Carolina so that when these guys get off the plane there are people who say we understand that retirement security is the critical issue of our generation and we don't even want you to talk to us until you make it clear you are going to fix this problem," Armey said in an interview.

'Republicans who don't dare and Democrats who don't care'
Armey, a Texas Republican who was a leader of the GOP's 1994 takeover of Congress, left the House in January 2003 and now heads a group called Freedom Works. The organization advocates slashing government spending and overhauling Social Security - two issues that Armey contends potential presidential candidates of both parties should be forced to address.

"That's clearly the biggest issue of our generation and it's an issue that's plagued by Republicans who don't dare and Democrats who don't care," said Armey.

"We have not had a serious adult discussion about Social Security in my adult lifetime," he said.

President Bush has proposed a Social Security overhaul that would include personal savings accounts and a reduction in future benefits promised to younger workers. The legislation failed to make it to the floor of either the House or Senate.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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