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Peace, Love, and Rock-n-Roll from a proud Lefty, Liberal, Socialist Hippie

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Protect Social Security

To Senators Murray and Cantwell and Congressmen Inslee and Larsen:

Dear Washington State and Snohomish County Delegation,

I almost feel foolish in sending this email to you all. After all, I should be able to expect anyone I voted for to defend Social Security as if it were their own personal possession. However, with the re-installment of George W. Bush as occupant of the Whitehouse and ruler of America, I believe it is important to remind you all (as I did in 2000) that George Bush does not represent the majority of the American people and, therefore, you should stand as a proud opposition party in defense of the values your constituency embrace.

As someone who lives in a 4 Generation household, I believe I see the issue of Social Security in a unique way. At the top, I have an 80 year old mother who depends on her Social Security check for her sole income. She is of that generation to whom Social Security was a solemn promise from a compassionate government to its hard working and sacrificing citizens. My wife and I are just a brief decade or so from receiving those checks ourselves. Due to outsourcing and off shoring in the recent Bush years, we have had to make deep withdrawals from our retirement plans to stay afloat while we were looking for our new, lower paying jobs. Needless to say, this has increased our anticipated dependency on the system we have paid into for so many years. We now have working children who are torn between the threatening and fear mongering rhetoric of the Bush Administration telling them that the system will fold long before they will ever see a cent of their payroll tax deductions returned to them and the reality that the current system (if left alone and not raided to fight illegal wars) is solvent well beyond their working years. Finally, we have a granddaughter (2 1/2 years) who, depending on the decisions you make today, may see herself needing to take on the responsibility of support for aging and ailing parents as well as trying to provide for her own family.

When George W. Bush slipped through the back door into Washington DC in 2000, he came with a tax scheme that the majority of Americans voted against. He said it would drive our economy and move the job market. It did both of those things. It drove our economy into massive debt and moved our job market offshore or into the ground. Most of you saw this and stood up against those "borrow and spend" plans. Now he is back with a plan to destroy Social Security by pulling TRILLIONS of dollars out of the account. His plan calls for my working children to invest their retirement money (some $25 or $35 per week is their typical payroll deduction) in the stock market on the CHANCE that they will invest wisely and not need Social Security. In the mean time, how does he propose to make up for newly created shortfall in current funding for my mother and my wife and I? He says we (you) will BORROW the money! We are talking TRILLIONS of dollars. Who will you borrow this money from? My granddaughter? Or, worse, the Saudis, Chinese, and Japanese who already hold much of our massive Bush debt?

What makes this scheme so much more bothersome is that it is being proposed by a republican to a republican controlled Congress. This is the same republican party whose one-time leader, Newt Gringrich said that the republicans were content to watch Social Security "wither on the vine". Does anyone in their right mind truly believe that the republicans would approve the borrowing of TRILLIONS of dollars to save a program they despise? Just as they did with the Bush tax scheme, they will gladly roll back the funding, only borrow a token amount of the new debt for the photo-op and sit back and watch the program die a painful death.

You MUST stand against this scheme! There can be no retreat or even compromise on this issue. Social Security, to many in this country, represents our government (and the Democratic Party) at its best. It is an issue worth fighting for and one that many at home will be watching. Do not let my mother down.

Chad (The Left) Shue

4 comments:

Jackie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jackie said...

For those who may wonder why my comment was removed, it is because, being new to blogging, I inadvertantly posted a New Topic (see "Jackie's On-going Conversation") as a comment to Chad's Social Security Topic. My bad.

The administrator was kind enough to remove it as a comment and post it as a new topic for me. I will eventually get the hang of all this. In the meantime, thank you for your patience

Chad Shue said...

Editor's Note:
The following is from an associate of mine who chose an email reply rather than commenting directly to the blog. I gladly pass along his comments. cs)
******************************************************************************

[Chad]

I greatly appreciate your passionate and eloquent call to our legislators to defend the Social Security program from the barbarians at its gates. Your comments from my point of view are right on the mark.
I can add the following comments and thoughts to further support the arguments put forth in your letter. Let me begin by giving some background information as to what I believe is driving the agenda of the Bush Administration in regards to “semi-privatization” as a long term solution to the solvency of the Social Security program.

I see two separate but related forces behind the Administrations current mission to portray an “immediate crisis” in the solvency of the program in order to push semi-privatization as the answer to securing benefits for current and future participants. One is a philosophical position and the other a pragmatic consequence stemming from the application of the philosophy as it relates to the ever-growing national debt and the cost of funding the Administrations agenda. As normal, this Administration is using fear tactics to scare the public into believing its view of the situation in hopes no one will really question the facts behind their arguments. But make no mistake, this is really being driven by a philosophical position regarding the role of government in our society, outside any reality check of whether that philosophy has any real merits. The broader agenda here can be recognized in the likes of Andrew Biggs, the associate commissioner of Social Security for retirement, who developed the official policy brief being used by the Administration regarding the consequences of not taking action to insure the solvency of the program.
Mr. Biggs is a former analyst at the Cato Institute. Need I say more? What can I say about a quasi-academic “think-tank” that is funded by tobacco, fossil fuel, investment, media, and other regulated industries. The list of right-leaning individuals and groups funding the Cato Institute is a virtual whose who of important neo-conservatives. According to an article from the Washington Post the Cato Institute supports the wholesale elimination of eight cabinet agencies, Commerce, Education, Energy, Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs, to be replaced by private market forces and has spent about $3 million in the past six years to promote Social Security privatization. The people supporting the “research” behind the Administrations policy brief would stand to gain a great deal in regards to managing the private investments as well as profits from channeling a portion of payroll taxes in stocks and corporate bonds rather than in government securities. This dovetails nicely into how the Administration has used national debt, call me a conspiracy theorist, to further the goal to privatize the federal government by bankrupting our ability to adequately fund agency administrated programs in the future.

Remember the arguments put forth by Al Gore, yes the lockbox analogy, to never divert the surplus in the Social Security funds to pay for other government programs back in 2000? Four years later the current Administration, and Congress, has used part of the surplus to fund basic government operations to mask the actual size of federal deficit. I have read some estimates that say the current Administration and Congress has used around $480 billion in excess Social Security payroll taxes to fund basic government operations. This of course would hide the real size of the federal deficit and weaken the future solvency of the Social Security program. Talk about killing two birds with one stone or eating your cake and having ice cream at the same time! This is how you can increase spending while reducing various taxes (the shift from progressive taxes like individual income to more regressive taxes like payroll taxes) and hide in part the real effect on the national dept. This is how you can further the agenda to privatize parts of the federal government by creating a self-fulfilling policy. The privatization of the Social Security system in my mind must be viewed as part of the broader Administration supported agenda. What I find so completely unethical is the way the Administration supported by our Congress has helped exasperate the situation by removing funds from the Social Security program and then argues their “solution” to fix a problem in part created by their actions.
No one in their right mind would argue that there are not long-term issues with the solvency of the Social Security program. I find it very interesting however when employees of the Social Security Administration are speaking out against the Bush Administrations plans to semi-privatize the program and disputing the facts being used to justify the Administration policy.
Hope you find some of my thoughts constructive and useful. In regards to my own opinion I am firmly against the Administrations plan as it stands today.
Keep up the good fight and be the change you want in the world.

Namaste!

John Jankowski
jankowskijohn@yahoo.com

Chad Shue said...

From Congressman Jay Inslee:

Dear Chad:

Thank you for contacting me regarding recent proposals to the Social Security program. I appreciate hearing from you.

I believe that Social Security is one of the most successful poverty reduction programs in United States history. Fewer than 12 percent of older Americans today fall below the poverty line, without Social Security that number would be nearly 50 percent. I believe we have an obligation to provide both current and future retirees with public retirement benefits. Let me assure you that I am committed to passing responsible Social Security legislation to restore long term solvency to this vital program.

The real threat to Social Security at this time, I believe, is the President's fiscal policy. I am deeply concerned that the President's proposed budget, which is supported by the House and Senate Republican leadership, further dips into the existing Social Security trust fund surplus. Prior to the passage of the President's tax cut, we had been able to save the surplus to strengthen the Social Security trust fund.

Instead, the administration wants workers to divert some of the payroll taxes that currently pay for Social Security into private investment accounts, in exchange for a much-reduced government benefit. To replace the payroll taxes it would otherwise have collected, dedicated funds set up under President Reagan to strengthen the Social Security system, the government would borrow an estimated $2 trillion over the next 10 years or so and even more thereafter. The President cannot accomplish his proposal without incurring large amounts of new debt and reducing the guaranteed benefit.

The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the privatized plan that is widely regarded as the template for future legislation and found that total retirement benefits, payouts from proposed private accounts plus the reduced government subsidy, would be less than under the current system. Estimates showed that the amount available under the privatized system was less even after mid-century, when the current system is projected to come up short. I found it noteworthy that the Wall Street Journal has previously declared that "personal accounts alone won't cure Social Security's ills."

The only guaranteed winner would be stock brokers and Wall Street investment firms, as fees to manage the millions of new private accounts are generated. Those fees would further reduce returns on private accounts, as they will come out of any benefit paid to retirees. I also have concerns that the affluent, who could afford professional investing advice, would gain a significant advantage, particularly over people with little investing experience, even though everyone would be taking the same risks.

I am dedicated to saving Social Security and Medicare. The Concord Coalition has compiled a Congressional Scorecard in recognition of Members of Congress who have made tough choices necessary to balance the budget and put programs like Social Security and Medicare on a sustainable, long-term track. I am proud to be listed on their honor roll for my support of these priorities. I will also continue to look for other ways to improve the economic circumstances of our elderly population.

Please continue to contact me about the issues that concern you, as I both need and welcome your thoughts and ideas. As a service to my constituents, I maintain a website which contains valuable resources and information on Congressional activities. Please feel free to visit the website at http://www.house.gov/inslee for information on recent issues and to learn more about the services my office provides.


I encourage you to contact me via email, telephone, or fax, because security measures are causing House offices to experience delays in receiving postal mail. My email address is: Jay.Inslee@mail.house.gov. Please be sure to include your full name and address, including your zip code, in your message.

Very Truly Yours,

JAY INSLEE
Member of Congress