Jul 23 2003

Bipartisan Group Announces Cease-fire on Social Security

White House Senior Economic Team Supportive

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of lawmakers today announced six members of the Senate and ten members of the House of Representatives have agreed to a cease-fire on Social Security. The bipartisan group, led by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Congressman Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas) and Jim Kolbe (R-Arizona), addressed the letter to the chairs of the Republican and Democratic congressional and senatorial campaign committees. “We pledge to defend candidates – Republican or Democrat – who support Social Security modernization and are willing to make tough choices to address the fiscal challenges facing Social Security. We will no longer turn a blind eye to political attack ads that accuse responsible reform advocates of wanting to dismantle Social Security or slash benefits of current retirees,” wrote the group. “The white-hot rhetoric surrounding Social Security modernization is creating an environment that punishes those who discuss reform options openly and honestly,” they said. “The American people deserve a modernized Social Security system that provides true retirement security for all Americans, while reducing the pressure on future taxpayers and on other budgetary priorities.” In a letter from the White House, President Bush’s senior economic team, Stephen Friedman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, Joshua Bolton, Director, Office of Management and Budget, and N. Gregory Mankiw, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors praised the bipartisan initiative and pledged to push forward with efforts to save Social Security. “We commend you for taking a stand against politicized rhetoric that too often interferes with bipartisan cooperation on behalf of millions of participants in the Social Security program,” wrote the presidential advisors. “The President believes modernizing Social Security to enhance its fiscal sustainability and to allow younger workers the choice to have a personal Social Security account is an important national priority.” The elected officials noted Social Security faces what some experts have called a ‘demographic train wreck’ in the coming years as the nation ages. The number of workers paying taxes to support Social Security dropped from 16-to-1 in 1950 to 3-to-1 today. Within a generation there will be only 2 workers to support each retiree. The oldest baby boomers will be eligible to retire in just 5 short years and between 2011 and 2030, the number of beneficiaries will increase 65 percent while the working, taxpaying population will increase only 8 percent. According to the programs own trustees, Social Security begins paying out more in benefits than it takes in as taxes in 2018. By 2042, Social Security will be broke and unable to pay full benefits to retirees. “It’s time for the demagoguery to stop,” said Graham. “Social Security modernization will only be achieved if we make a commitment to discuss the need for reform candidly. It is time for this Congress and President to solve the problems facing Social Security. Inaction is no longer an option. The longer we wait, the harder the task becomes.” “We must begin to talk honestly and directly about the tough choices that must be made to strengthen Social Security,” said Stenholm. “This issue is so important we cannot resort to, cannot tolerate, partisan attacks, demagoguery or irresponsible, empty rhetoric. The future of Social Security is too important for it to be used for partisan political purposes.” “As Members who have dedicated ourselves to promoting an honest and open debate on the issue of Social Security, we call on the chairs of the respective House and Senate campaign committees to engage in a responsible dialogue about the future of the Social Security system,” said Kolbe. “Demagoguery by both parties do little more than fan political fires and contribute to the skepticism many Americans have about Congress's ability to tackle tough issues.” #####