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2005-01-22—Levin, Sanders on Social Security

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


Keeping up with Jewish officeholders

Sen. Levin, Rep. Sanders provide critiques
of Bush Administration Social Security plan,  Jan. 22, 2005

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) and U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) have separately criticized President George W. Bush's proposal to allow people to invest a portion of the money in their Social Security accounts as one that would compound, rather than solve, the problems facing the Social Security system.

Sanders during a Jan. 19 speech in Vermont and Levin in a Jan. 21 news release issued from his office in Washington both cited a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to sketch the issues facing the retirement fund.

“Social Security is not going 'bankrupt,' it is not 'flat-busted,' and non-partisan study after study make that point," Sanders told constituents in Vermont. "It really is not debatable. According to the Social Security Board of Trustees, in its March 31, 2004, annual report, if Congress does nothing (and I certainly hope that Congress will take action) Social Security will pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 37 years. 

"The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) goes even further and projects that Social Security can pay out all of its benefits for the next 47 years, to the year 2052," Sanders continued. "After that, there will be enough funding available to pay out 80 percent of promised benefits and, with minor adjustments, 100% of benefits. In other words, depending upon the experts you want to rely on, Social Security is not going bankrupt but will be fully solvent for the next 37 to 47 years." 

Levin phrased a similar argument this way: "While it is clear that we need to make some adjustments to protect Social Security for the long term, it is disingenuous to say that the trust fund is facing a crisis. The Social Security Administration estimates that the Social Security Trust Fund can pay full benefits through 2042. The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes budget matters for Congress, estimates the Social Security Trust Fund will be solvent even longer, until 2052. And even if no adjustments were made, about 80% of the benefits could still be paid after 2052. In fact, many experts believe Social Security is on more sound footing today than it has been for most of its 70-year history. "

Sanders speculated about President Bush's motives for proposing the changes: 

"“In my view, President Bush and his extreme right-wing Administration want to privatize Social Security for at least two reasons. First, their right-wing ideology holds the view that almost any form of government program is bad – which is why they are cutting back or moving to privatize not just Social Security, but Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans benefits and the VA, affordable housing, public education and even the U.S. military. 

"Secondly," said the Vermont congressman, "it is no secret that the President’s friends and campaign contributors on Wall Street, who are already investing millions in a major advertising campaign for privatization, will make hundreds of billions if Social Security is privatized by managing the money in these accounts and earning huge amounts in commissions."

Levin kept his criticism focused on the proposal itself: "Under the current system, in 2018 the Social Security Administration will begin paying out more money in claims than it receives in revenues, i.e., it will begin utilizing the trust fund built up expressly for this purpose," he said.

"If we instituted privatized accounts as the President proposes, the trillions of dollars going into those accounts would not go into the Social Security system, thus dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund even earlier. The administration has said that the current system is “headed for an iceberg.” In fact, their plan creates the iceberg and makes us hit it sooner," the senator from Michigan said. 

"Moreover," Levin added, "if we privatize Social Security, we would introduce gambling into the system: there will be winners, and there will be losers. Social Security would no longer be a guarantee for all Americans, but a jackpot for the lucky. For the first time in 70 years, we would fail to keep our pact with all of the American people."       —Donald H. Harrison