Considering All Plans for Saving Social Security

By:  Jack Kingston
Date: Feb. 9, 2005
Location: Washington, DC

CONSIDERING ALL PLANS FOR SAVING SOCIAL SECURITY -- (House of Representatives - February 09, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Kingston) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. KINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, I wanted to speak tonight about Social Security and some of the debate that is going on. I want to thank the gentleman from Oregon for putting forth a proposal, because I think it is important for Democrats to put forth proposals, because it seems like a number of Members of Congress are still in denial that there is a problem, and they kind of argue a little bit about nomenclature. They might say, well, it is a problem, but it is not a crisis. It is kind of like this: if my house is on fire, it is a crisis, but if I have termites eating away at the foundation, that is a problem. Either way, you have to address it.

I appreciate President Bush for somewhat following in President Clinton's footsteps and saying we have to address this. President Clinton actually did say that the Social Security situation was a crisis. I do not want to get bogged down in that.
Here is what we know. In the year 2018, because of so many baby boomers retiring, more money will be going out of the system than is coming in. Real simple. In the year 2042, everybody seems to be agreeing that by then we will have exhausted whatever money is in there and, if we want to continue the Social Security program, we have to reduce the benefits by 27 percent.

Now, what the President has said is that if you take that 12.4 percent and you take 2 percent of it and put it into a personal investment account similar to the Thrift Savings Account that most Members of Congress have, and I know there are a lot of Democrats, probably all the Democrats have it, I know probably all the Republicans have it, but if you let people have plans like that, that it would out-perform their Social Security.

The President is saying, we do not want to increase taxes, we do not want to cut benefits, we certainly do not want to endanger survivor benefits or benefits for children. There has been a suggestion by the previous speaker that those would be in jeopardy. That is not the case at all.

But here is what my staff was able to get me today on what that government, the Thrift Savings Account which so many Members of Congress and most members of the Federal employment have. You go in there and you select a certain amount of investments. You can choose between A, B, C, or D. But in the G fund, for example, the last 10 years, it has earned on average 6 percent. The C fund, it has earned on average over the last 10 years, 11 percent. The F fund, which is a fixed income investment, 6.9 percent over the last 10 years. And the S fund, which is a relatively newer fund, it has earned about 5.3 percent since 2001. There is also a newer ``I'' fund, but it has only been up for 2 years.

Now, how can we as a society say to a 25-year-old just entering the workplace that for the next 40 years, you have to work and receive on your Social Security benefits about 2 percent, when you could have what your Member of Congress has: a fund where you choose anywhere from a return of 5 percent to 11 percent, or more. And these are 10-year averages, and if you look at the lifetime of the stock market versus the lifetime of Social Security return, certainly you would be making more money.

But why is the President doing this? He is doing this because the Social Security program was started in 1935. At that time there were 60 workers to every one retiree. In the 1950s, there were 16 workers to every retiree. And today, there are three workers per retiree, and soon it will be down to two workers per retiree. And that is why we have to take advantage of some of the new products that are out there in the financial investment world. A lot of people say, well, why do we change this program? Again, we change it because that worker-to-retiree ratio has changed so much.

Now, I have a dad who is 87 years old, a mom who is 80 years old, my wife, her parents are both alive. They all get Social Security, and they depend on Social Security. What I am reassured by is that for them, retirees and near retirees, people aged 55 and up, there is going to be no change. For the people who are younger than them, it is a voluntary program.

But when I go on college campuses, as I did last week in St. Mary's, Georgia, to Coastal Georgia Community University, I say to them, how many of you think Social Security will be there for you, and zero hands go up. I say, wait a minute, there are survivor benefits, spouse benefits, other options that are out there, other ways to get Social Security money and still, they all say, it is not going to be there for us.

We owe it to the next generation to protect and preserve Social Security and do something today. Every year that we postpone it, it is another $600 billion deeper in the hole. We have to address this.

I want to close with this, Mr. Speaker. I know I am out of time. I know again my friend from Oregon says he has a proposal; we need to look at it. We need to look at all of the proposals, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and together we need to come together for what is in the best interests of all generations of America.

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