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A Stealth Plan to Privatize Social Security

Location: Washington, DC

A Stealth Plan to Privatize Social Security

The President's plan to privatize Social Security was strongly opposed by the American public last year. Americans of all political stripes — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — rejected the plan because they recognized its serious flaws. It cuts benefits, increases the deficit, and makes retirement much less secure for senior citizens.

This was a case where the American people got a chance to take a good, long look at an idea, and make up their own mind. And the more we looked, the less we liked.

But despite this strong public and bipartisan opposition, the Administration has not given up on the idea. Although we have not heard a lot about it in public, the Administration quietly slid a proposal to move forward with privatization into the 2007 budget.

This is significant because the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year is the Administration's plan for the future. It impacts millions of people's lives. The Administration's fiscal blueprint lays out how they feel that our nation will finance everything from defense to education to agriculture to transportation.

That is why some of the details of the budget were so disturbing when it comes to Social Security, once you get down to reading the fine print. When you look closely, the budget, for the very first time, actually contains a concrete plan to privatize Social Security. And the price tag for privatizing the program is a gigantic $712 billion - an amount that would grow substantially larger over time.

This means that under the budget plan, taxpayers would pay over $700 billion of their hard-earned taxes in order to pay to privatize the Social Security program and cut their future guaranteed hard-earned Social Security benefit. Americans would actually be paying taxes to fund the effort to take away Social Security's guaranteed retirement security.

That is not the right direction to take - it is against common sense and it is a bad deal for Mainers.

What is even more surprising is that the budget actually also eliminates the $255 death benefit provided by Social Security to the families of those who die. While modest, this benefit is very important to many families who need assistance in order to bury their loved ones with dignity. I find it extremely difficult to justify asking families to give up this assistance that they have been expecting at the time of a death of a loved one.

We should not be in the business of cutting Social Security benefits through privatization. And we should definitely not be cutting death benefits paid quite literally to widows and orphans.

There are plenty of other policies in this budget to talk about. Some of them are a step in the right direction, like the focus that the President suggested we should have in the State of the Union address on improving education and increasing American competitiveness, especially in manufacturing. There are also a number of policies in the budget that are not good for Maine, like cuts to student loans, health care and funding for small businesses.

But one thing is clear: the privatization plan should not be in there. The public has already seen the plan and they don't like it. Congress studied the effects and found that privatizing Social Security is not a sound policy. Today's and tomorrow's retirees ought to have security, not uncertainty.

Social Security is a vital program for millions of Americans now and tomorrow. We do need to work hard to plan for its future. But this issue deserves honest and open bipartisan discussions — the future of Social Security should not be decided by being slipped deep into a giant budget plan.

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