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Strengthening Social Security

Location: Washington DC

STRENGTHENING SOCIAL SECURITY -- (House of Representatives - July 20, 2005)


Mr. GINGREY. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman from Kentucky for not only recognizing me for a few minutes, but for putting together this special hour to discuss something that is so important.

As I went across my district, and I know my colleagues did the same thing, talking about Social Security when the President first rolled out his suggestion of having an individual personal account, it was not just his idea, but I think a very good idea, to carve out up to 4 percent of the 12.4 percent payroll tax in an optional way for those workers under 55, and to let that part of their Social Security account be an account that they actually own, they actually have ownership of, and it could enjoy the miracle of compound interest. Einstein said that was the greatest power in the world, even more powerful than atomic fission. But clearly that was a good idea. I think it is still a good idea.

But as I talked about that in my town hall meetings across the Eleventh District of Georgia, Mr. Speaker, the one recurring theme that I heard from folks, mostly seniors in the audience, but a lot of times they were younger workers, they said, Congressman, we are not sure about this individual personal account thing.

I think people are afraid of change, and they would express a little bit of hesitation and doubt about it. But one thing that seemed consistent almost every time I did a town hall meeting, and I think I probably have done at least 15 on this subject, was whatever you do, Congressman, please, go back to Washington and tell your colleagues on both sides of the aisle that this business of robbing, of raiding that trust fund has got to stop. If you do not do anything else, just solve that problem, because nothing else really matters if you continue to take this excess money that has been coming in since 1935 when we had 15 workers for every beneficiary and people died before they reached the age at which they could earn a benefit at age 65. Life expectancy was 64 on average, and we did not have any problem.

But we have time over these coming years. I say ``we,'' and my colleague pointed out just a little earlier, we were not around, not many of us, I think I was 3 years old when Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. But Congresses have been spending that excess money in the so-called trust fund to the point that $1.7 trillion is missing.

But I think it is important for us, my colleagues, to let the American people know that that money was not squandered, it was not wasted. We are not talking about fraud and abuse; we are talking about spending money on things like K through 12 education, Head Start programs, benefits for our veterans, which they so richly deserve, in times like we are now when we are in a shooting war and we have to equip our troops to make sure that we give them every opportunity to win. That is where the money has gone.

I think Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are, by their very nature, compassionate. And when these folks come to us and say, we need just a little bit more, Mr. Congressman and Mrs. Congresswoman, we need just a little bit more, we have little children that have needs, we have disabled people that have needs, that is where the trust fund has gone.

So I think it is understandable. We can play this blame game and finger point and say, well, the Democrats did this, or President Clinton, or the Republicans have spent the money, or President Bush is spending the money to wage a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what we are talking about now with this idea of the GROW account is to answer the complaint of the people in the 11th district of Georgia, and I am sure my colleagues' districts as well, let us do finally put a lockbox on the Social Security Trust Fund.

So I really commend the members of the Committee on Ways and Means, the gentleman from Louisiana (Mr. McCrery), the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Shaw), the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Sam Johnson), the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Ryan), the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Shadegg), and my colleagues here tonight, the gentlewoman from Pennsylvania (Ms. Hart) and, before that, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Chocola) was with us. I think the Committee on Ways and Means has really come up with a novel idea. I hope we will not abandon the thought of individual personal accounts coming out of the payroll tax, and I think at some point we will do that, and we need to continue to work on the solvency of Social Security.

But this is a great way, these GROW accounts, to say that we are going to take the excess, and there will be, Mr. Speaker, an excess of revenue coming in over benefits being paid out from now until 2017. I do not think anybody disagrees with that. I think one of my colleagues tonight said that we are talking about maybe as much as $700 billion over that period of time before we reach that cross-over where the amount coming in is the same as the amount going out. But we have got that window of opportunity, we are talking about 12 years, where we can allocate that money, that excess money to individuals younger than age 55, unless they opt out, and then in 2009, as I understand the GROW accounts, we will actually not only have the opportunity to invest that into government bonds, but put it in a well-managed Thrift Savings Plan so that our beneficiaries can then enjoy the miracle of compound.

So I am really glad to be here tonight to lend my thoughts to it. I think it is a great idea. I commend the committee. I look forward to having the opportunity to go back home during the August recess and tell my colleagues that yes, we are finally going to respond to the best suggestion that I have heard, and it was from the folks back home; let us finally put a lockbox on the excess dollars coming in.

With that, I will yield back to the gentlewoman from Kentucky and thank her for letting me participate this evening.


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