Butterfield Comments on State of the Union
February 2, 2005
Congressman G. K. Butterfield's statement following President Bush's State of the Union Address:
Washington, DC-I was most struck and concerned by President Bush's desire to dismantle Social Security as we know it. Instead, I want to save, strengthen and preserve Social Security for the future. We have to meet the challenges facing the program in ways that ensure that every American worker gets the benefits they paid for.
It's what the President didn't say that concerns me. An attempt to create risky private accounts won't make up for the loss in benefits for millions of Americans, instead it would require borrowing more than $2 trillion from foreign countries like China and Japan, which would be added to the huge national debt.
Not only do private accounts fail to address the Social Security shortfall predicted for 40 to 50 years into the future, they make the financial situation worse for Social Security and the overall federal budget. Moreover, privatization involves huge benefit cuts that the President neglects to mention in his sales pitch. A solution should make things better, not worse.
Under the Bush proposals, Social Security benefits would eventually be cut by more than 40 percent. That means that the average monthly benefit would be reduced from $955 per month to just $516 per month. This would mean an average reduction of $134,000 in benefits for each retiree over their lifetime, and it would mean that 48 percent of America's seniors would be living in poverty.
We can encourage private savings without cutting Social Security benefits. Congress should work to secure pension benefits and make it easier for workers to save for retirement by enhancing and strengthening investment vehicles such as 401(k)s and IRA plans. The American people ought to be able to depend on the President to provide clear and unbiased information on retirement investment options.
If the Republicans had not forced through nearly $2 trillion in irresponsible tax breaks for the rich, we could have ensured the solvency of the Social Security program for the next 75 years. They borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for those tax cuts, and that's a betrayal of trust. It's time to start paying that money back.
We need to end raids on Social Security by returning to responsible pay as you go budget rules so that we have to pay for what we spend rather than running up billions in debt and spending every penny of the Social Security Trust Fund. These budget rules, which created the surplus of the 1990s, will put us back on the path to fiscal responsibility and allow us to protect Social Security, Medicare, and other important programs. Social Security payroll taxes should be spent only on Social Security benefits. In addition, a portion of any future surpluses should be invested in the Trust Fund to extend its life for future generations.