SOCIAL SECURITY -- (House of Representatives - March 16, 2005)
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Kentucky for yielding and allowing me to participate in this debate.
Madam Speaker, as we begin tonight, I tell my colleagues I just have to comment, listening to my colleagues from across the aisle, one would think if they were listening to this great debate that we are having here that they believe everything depends on the government; the panacea has to be the government; the solution to the problems, it has all got to be the government.
As we talk about Social Security, we want to welcome them and invite them to come participate in the debate, but I find it so interesting. They do not bring new ideas to this debate, and they keep saying let us let the government tend to it, but they do not want to talk about the importance of developing an ownership society. They do not want to talk about giving power to the people.
I always wonder when I hear someone say government is the solution, government has got the solution, leave it to government, let them work it out, let us grow a bigger government. I think about Ronald Reagan and how he always said it is all about the people. It is all about the people. That is where the solutions lie.
Whatever the debate is, whatever our colleagues across the aisle, whatever their view is on Social Security reform, I would hope that no one will oppose a discussion on this issue.
We are brought here to Washington, those of us that are elected, and we come to Congress to participate in big issues that are going to impact individuals' lives and the American people's lives. It is true that our country has a range of problems that we are facing right now, but I think it is fair to say and I think that my colleague would agree with me that strengthening and stabilizing Social Security is at the top of that list.
I would invite our colleagues from across the aisle to join us in this debate, bring some ideas and to participate in how we should look at Social Security for future generations. I think it is very unfortunate that so many across the aisle are following the lead of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Pelosi), the minority leader, and nearly every Democrat in the House has chosen to stifle debate, rather than to engage in it, and I think that is not leadership. It is really obstructionism.
Madam Speaker, about a week ago, President Bush visited Memphis, Tennessee, which is just outside of my district, and I would have liked to have been there and been a part of that, but things did not quite work out that way for me on last Friday. That did not stop the Democratic National Committee from attacking both the President and me in a statewide radio ad.
Their ad was misleading at best, and it essentially said that we should not even debate reform. They are essentially saying that we should bury our head in the sand and ignore the problem until it just goes on and runs over us. I can tell my colleagues, the DNC attack ad generated two calls. Only two calls to my Shelby County, Memphis, area office in opposition to any type reform. They spent all their money, 70 stations, State-wide, and we got two negative calls. Fifty calls from people who said I think we can talk about Social Security reform but let us not squash the discussion.
In fact, I have an e-mail from a man in Collierville, which is in Shelby County near Memphis, and he says: I was listening to WREC radio today and heard a rather obnoxious DNC commercial telling me to contact you to vote against the President's effort to modify Social Security. I am contacting you but rather to encourage you to work with the President to pass a reform.
On the day of the President's visit, a front page article in the local news section of the Nashville Tennessean read, Bush trip puts Democrats' focus on Blackburn. President in Memphis for next stop in Social Security debate. All this because we want to have a discussion. We want to talk about a very real problem and what we are going to do about it.
Now, is it not amazing, here in America, here in the United States House of Representatives, here in Congress, when you want to lead on a discussion and bring to the attention of the American people something that is a problem, then it makes you a political target. That is absolutely incredible. Facing a problem, addressing and defining a problem and then working to find a solution, that is what is called leadership.
Since last fall, I have been holding town hall meetings and discussions across my district, and we have been talking about Social Security reform in these. We are letting constituents know the process that we are going through and how we are searching for the right thing, the right steps to take, and I will not sugarcoat things here. Some people are absolutely opposed to the discussion. They will not consider the idea of reform, any kind of reform, but that is not the norm. I found that most people are not only willing to discuss reform, but they have their own ideas of what we should do, and that tells me something. People are thinking about this issue.
The Democrats in the House are unwilling, really unwilling to discuss the topic. They refuse to come to the table and say, okay, let us see what we can do to fix this problem. They are out of touch with mainstream America. They were out of touch in the last election cycle, and they remain out of touch today.
I have brought with me today, Madam Speaker, a handful of the thousands of e-mails that I have received to share with you.
Here is one from a gentleman in Arlington, Tennessee. It is also in Shelby County, down near Memphis, and he says: While I agree privatization accounts should not be the number one focus, they are a significant factor in this issues reform. Please accept the correspondence as a vote in favor of President Bush's proposal. He goes on and details some of the things that he likes and does not like about what he is hearing.
On the other side, I have got one from a woman in Nashville, Tennessee: I am opposed to the privatization of Social Security. I am in favor of reform, but there are many people who could pay more into Social Security or maybe take less out.
Another man from Collierville, Tennessee: Can you help pass Social Security reform? I would appreciate the opportunity to invest a percentage of my Social Security payments.
Does that not sound like a pretty good debate. These people are not afraid to discuss it. America is discussing the issue. We would like to think that the Democrats would also.
We have several bills in the House and the Senate that are proposing different reforms, and I want Tennesseans to know that I am going to continue to review these ideas, to talk with them about the bills that are being brought forward, and we will continue to support committee action on a range of proposals.
Some of the e-mails that I have received ask why we are doing this now, why we cannot just put it off for another decade. It is similar to refinancing your house. You refinance your home mortgage today and get a much lower interest rate than you could probably 10 years from now. Why would you wait when conditions will never be better than they are now? Well, that is where with what we have to do with Social Security. Conditions for reform will not get any better than they are now. It makes no sense to wait.
Last week I wrote an op-ed that ran in the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper where I talked about four indisputable facts regarding Social Security that we should all be able to agree on regardless of our party affiliation or ideology. Those facts are these: in 1950, there were 16 workers paying into Social Security for every one retiree. Today there are only 3.3 workers for every retiree, and by the time my two children who are in their mid-twenties retire, there will only be two workers for every retiree. We have 13 years when the Social Security will begin taking in less money than it pays out to retirees.
It is time for us to move forward. We know that the American people are engaged in this debate. We know that they are participating in this debate. I have had a survey on my Web site running for a week now, and I have had a tremendous response to this. I will tell my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they had better start taking part in this very real, very lively discussion because there is a widespread view that we should do something and do it now. The only people willing to work on this are the Republicans and the Republican leadership in Congress.
It is a disservice to our Nation that our colleagues across the aisle do not want to participate. It is not why we were sent here to Congress.
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