Thirty-Something Working Group

By:  Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Date: June 27, 2005
Location: Washington, DC

THIRTY-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - June 27, 2005)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me.

It is wonderful to be here with the both of them, my two esteemed colleagues from the next generation in the United States Congress, and I have been able to listen to a little of what they have been saying on my way over here.

A few weeks ago when we were talking about this before the latest version of the privatization scheme was put on the table, we were talking about how interesting it is that no matter how many times they are told no, they still keep coming back with the same concept, just a different version. And I know I analogized it is like when I speak to my children and they keep asking me and asking me if they can do something that I do not think they should do for one reason or another, whether it is not responsible or they are not old enough, and they try a lot of different versions of the same thing, and the answer is still no because I have carefully reviewed what they want to do, as their parent, and decided it is not the best timing right now or for whatever reason I have concluded it is not a good idea.

It would be as if one's teenager came to them and said Mom, Dad, I really want to go to this party, and I want to stay out until 2 o'clock in the morning, and the parent said, no, that is not a good idea, and so they come back to them. This new proposal is like if one's teenager came back to them and said I still want to go to the party, but I promise I will be home by midnight. The whole idea was that they did not want them to go to the party in the first place.

And after 60 days initially on the road trying to sell his privatization scheme to the American people and essentially they have rejected it and an additional 60-day effort where the more the President talks about this, the less people like it, it is mindboggling to me. And I am the sort of baby of the group of the three of us, I am a freshman, I was just elected. It is mindboggling to me that they do not want to come to the table now, as we have been asking them to do, and come up with a bipartisan solution.

Privatization balloons the deficit. It cuts benefits; and yet every version of their proposal, the premise of it is to privatize Social Security, and that pulls the safety net out from future retirees and, quite honestly, from people who are about to retire.

I actually had an electronic town hall meeting today at 4:30, which was amazing. We got tremendous feedback. But can I tell my colleagues that not one person who participated, and I had over 100 people participate live and 120 people signed on in advance of our beginning, and no one said, ``You really need to consider private accounts. We really want you to do this.'' I mean, it is time to sit down and put privatization aside, and like in 1983 when Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and others who were part of that group sat down and in a bipartisan way came up with a solution. It is time.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. MEEK of Florida. I yield to the gentlewoman from Florida.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, the two of us are from a State and from a region of a State where it would be expected that there would be deep, deep concern about the potential privatization of Social Security.

Obviously, we have a disproportionately high percentage of senior citizens in my district and the gentleman from Florida's district. But like the gentleman from Ohio said, across all demographic groups, all regions of the country, there is no group that has wide or deep support for this concept, and that is because people are uncomfortable at every level with the explosion of the deficit and this proposal's potential to expand it even more.

When I asked at my live town hall meetings whether people were confident enough in their own investment ability to be assured that their own investment decisions would carry them all the way through their entire retirement years, no one except for two people in three town hall meetings with more than 600 people in attendance, no one raised their hand, because look at the ebb and flow of the stock market; and this proposal is not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. If people hit a bump in the road where one year the stock market is not going so well, it is whatever is left when they retire in that account with a proportionate cut in their Social Security benefits.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman from Florida will continue to yield, if he does not mind my adding one more thing, like I said, I am a freshman. I was elected. I have been in Congress for 6 months. I really expected there to be a lot more collegiality in this body. The gentlemen are veterans, now, of this process. I have talked to my Republican freshmen colleagues on the other side. We all expected there to be more of an opportunity to work together, less rancor. It is sort of astonishing, and it is astonishing, I think, to the average American that we are still bickering about this and that we are all sharpening our elbows and digging in and going to our respective corners instead of acknowledging, like we are willing to do, that there is a problem with Social Security.

It is not a crisis like the President has been portraying; but there is a problem, a long-term problem with Social Security, and we need to come together and make some changes. But, unfortunately, the leadership in this Congress, the Republican leadership, just wants to be right, or somehow if they say it enough times, perhaps they think that they will be right when the American people are clearly telling them they are not.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman will yield further, there are three things I want to add to augment the gentleman from Florida's comments. One of them is 30-something oriented.

I noted when I went and spoke at Memorial Day services this year and Veterans' Day services on November 11 of last year, that every previous Veterans' Day and Memorial Day that I was able to participate in as an elected official prior to my time in the legislature, I was able to thank them. And generally the crowds that come to those events are older folks, senior citizens especially in Florida, veterans of many wars. I was able to say ``thank you'' from our generation, because prior to now, our generation is the first since before World War II that has never been called to war, that had never had the casualties that the generations before us had. And I was able to thank them for allowing us to stand on their shoulders and their sacrifice.

But I cannot say that any more. I cannot say that any more, because, as was read tonight, the more than 1,500 names that we are in the process of reading, we could have a whole hour just on the Iraq war and our deep concerns over that.

But to continue in the gentleman's thought process about health care for veterans, I visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center a few weeks ago and had an opportunity to visit with soldiers who had come back from Iraq and Afghanistan without their legs, hearing their stories, watching the pain etched in their face, and the dedication that they have. To the person, they wanted to go back, and their regret was they were not able to, they had to leave their comrades behind.

These people are struggling to get the health care they need when they are still enlisted. At home in South Florida and across the country, our veterans, as the gentleman said, 6 months is not an exaggeration for how long our veterans have to wait to get their health care needs taken care of. Is that the thanks that we give them, the proud veterans that have served this country?

We sound so soap-boxish, but your actions have to back up your words. It is really nice to stand on the floor and give a good speech and get all choked up, but what matters is how you cast that vote and what your light up on that board when they put it up there says, and you are either with them or against them. The Members that voted against those amendments that were offered in committee and on this floor and who opposed them, in spite of valiant speeches that were made on behalf of those veterans, should be ashamed of themselves.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I think that we have demonstrated here tonight, as we will in the future, that there are so many issues facing our generation, and we need to make sure that we take this country back in the right direction so that when our generation inherits the results of the decisions that we are making here, that we are not struggling to make sure that we can clean up the mess that was left for us.


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