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Defending Social Security

Location: Washington, DC

DEFENDING SOCIAL SECURITY -- (House of Representatives - March 08, 2005)


Mr. LEVIN. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman, and congratulate her on doing this. What we are doing here tonight, I say to my colleague from Connecticut and, later on, from California, and my good colleague from New Jersey, is to read some of the letters that we have been receiving from constituents. There are so many, I thought I would read just three of them, and then let others carry on. I hope we will continue to do this, because it brings home to Washington what we hear at home and what comes from home, what comes from home.

The first letter comes from a constituent in Clinton Township, Michigan. She wrote to a colleague of mine, and under our procedures, it was transferred to our office. And it reads, ``The Bush administration has placed Social Security on the top of the domestic priority list, but should it be? The `crisis' '', and that is in her quotes, ``they are trying to fix has been taking in more money than it has paid out since the 1980s. If left untouched, our current system would be capable of paying full benefits until 2042 and 75 percent after that.''

``If this administration wants to fix a crisis, they should begin with the national debt that'' and there is a word left out I think, ``that have created over the past 4 years. Increasing the deficit each year has weakened our country tremendously. Furthermore, allowing Social Security reform would cost the government between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. We live in an economy of job loss, underfunded schools, costly health care, and debt. The problems of today still need to be confronted, so why is this their focus in 2042? Reducing benefits would deprive citizens of the stability they deserve during retirement. The Bush administration is attempting to undermine the very concept of Social Security by doing so. If we allow this reform, the future of numerous citizens would be placed in jeopardy. This need to privatize Social Security is fiction, but the national debt is not.'' This is a wise constituent. All our constituents are wise; this is one who may be especially wise.

``Our government should be working to strengthen stability within our country, not weaken it. My suggestion to the Bush administration is this: Fix the problems you have created before addressing those of 2042. Continuing to ignore the issues of today will not ensure a better future for tomorrow.''

It was sent, and we checked with this constituent to make sure we could use her name, Colleen Szeliga.

Let me just read a second letter that is much briefer. I think the gentlewoman from Wisconsin (Ms. Baldwin) mentioned a letter from someone who had worked in the system. This is a brief letter from Jeanne Polisei who says the following in a letter to me: ``I worked for SSA for 18 years. I know,'' and it is underlined, ``what a great program it is. I know it has done wonders for people who would otherwise be poor. Please do all you can to keep this program as it is. Wall Street is not dependable but SSA is.''

If I may take a minute to read an excerpt from a letter. I will just read an excerpt because we did not have a chance to reach this constituent, so I will not mention the name or place this fully in the RECORD. Just the heart of this letter that was written November 10, 2004. This is her handwritten letter and I will read it exactly as it is: ``My daughter is on childhood benefits on her dad's work record and this is the only source of income, just as I am on widows benefits. We are both on Social Security. This has made'' and I think the word me is left out ``so sick with worry. What Bush wants to do is `privatize' Social Security.''

And then she goes on to say: ``The late President Roosevelt set this up as a trust fund for families and their children and the disabled. This is not his money.'' And then I finish with this: ``My husband worked hard for this money and died before his time. I pay the mortgage, the utilities, and food on the table. It is a daily struggle just to make ends meet from month to month.''

So this letter and the others and the ones other Members have read and those that will be coming express so directly and poignantly what this struggle is all about. It is to indeed to save and strengthen Social Security. We are willing to step up to the plate as we were 20 years ago. What we do not want to do is to weaken and dismantle it. And these letters express why this is so important for the people of our Nation.

So carry on with more letters. We are going to keep reading the letters to get this message across as to what the diversion of monies from Social Security to private accounts would really mean for the people of this country. And I think another time we will be reading letters from younger people because they have so much at stake and would be hurt so badly by the effort of the President to take monies out of Social Security, put them into private accounts, making the shortfall worse, not less, and undercutting a program that has meant so much in terms of independence for those on Social Security and will mean so much for my children and my grandchildren.

I thank the gentlewoman very much for giving me this opportunity.


Mr. LEVIN. About 30 percent of Social Security benefits go to those who are disabled and those who are family members. And the President said, if I might take another 30 seconds, that they would not be affected, the disabled. But that does not work out because what he has called a good blueprint provides for major benefits cut. And the plan, the second plan of the commission that is part of that good blueprint does affect the disabled. And if you were to have these massive cuts over time, especially hurting younger workers, for retirees and not for the disabled, it would mean deeper cuts yet for younger workers who are going to retire.

Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. So when the gentleman says the President's good blueprint will in fact weaken Social Security, that is exactly what it is doing?

Mr. LEVIN. It would not only weaken it; but one last point, it would in the end shrivel it next to nothing and mean its demise because of the cuts in benefits and what is called the claw-back which would be an offset against your Social Security of what is in your private accounts and that would be for younger workers, about 70 percent of what was left in your Social Security benefits. So in the end the younger worker in most cases would end up less in both, end up with less in both than if Social Security had not been destroyed. And the Social Security part of it would be so small that it would no longer be sustainable. And that is why this privatization by diversion of Social Security monies is essentially a path to the dismantling of Social Security.

Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Has the administration now admitted that that will not in any way, shape, manner or form close the gap that exists?

Mr. LEVIN. The privatization proposal does nothing to address the shortfall and, indeed, makes it worse.

Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. I thank the gentleman for clarifying that.



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