Letter to the Editor

Your view: Save Social Security

Monday, June 19, 2006

We, the American public, for those that are taxpayers, ought to be outraged at the way our money is being spent and misused, not by the millions of dollars, but by the billions of dollars, by our senators and now by a much trusted friend, the AARP. Supposedly! Let me explain.

The United States Senate recently voted down an amendment to a bill by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would have ended the ongoing raid on our Social Security Trust Fund.

On March 16, Senator DeMint (R-SC), Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Senator John Summer (R-NH) introduced an amendment to the budget for fiscal year 2007 to require social security surpluses to be saved, not spent.

Unfortunately, his amendment was defeated 53 to 46, with one senator not voting. Thus the raid of the Social Security Trust Fund will continue.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) read a letter on the floor from the AARP opposing the amendment. While the letter did not make sense, it was enough to rally every single Democrat and eight Republicans to vote against the amendment.

The Republican senators who voted to continue raiding money from the Social Security Trust Fund were Conrad Burns (MT), Lincoln Chafee (RI), Susan Collins (ME), Olympia Snowe (ME), Pete Domenici (NM), Richard Lugar (IN), Gordon Smith (OR) and our own Jim Talent (MO).

Each year more money is collected in Social Security payroll taxes then is paid out in benefits. Instead of saving the Social Security surplus for the "rainy days" that are coming, starting in 2017, this money is spent for non-Social Security purposes. In turn, the Social Security Trust Fund receives special issue, non-negotiable bonds, which are simply IOU's from the government to itself.

At the end of February, the government owed $1.89 TRILLION to the Social Security Trust Fund. This year, an additional $174-183 BILLION will be "borrowed" from social security.

Starting in 2017, there won't be enough money collected from payroll taxes to pay Social Security benefits. And some figures are even closer than that and using the year 2014 it will run out. But there is nothing in the Trust Fund but those worthless IOU's. By 2017, the amount owed to the Trust Fund could be anywhere from $3.818-$5.286 TRILLION, depending on the economy. But no one in Washington has any idea how this money can be repaid.

Therefore, it is imperative for the raid of the Trust Fund to be ended immediately to keep the amount owed to Social Security from growing.

But so far bills that would do that, the Social Security Preservation Act (HR

-219) and the Social Security Lock Box Act (S-292) have been struck down in House and Senate committees.

The amendment offered by Senators DeMint, Crapo and Summers would have required Social Security surpluses can be used only to pay Social Security benefits and not one other thing.

And AARP opposed the amendment.

David Sloane, senior managing director of Government Relation and Advocacy for AARP, completely mischaracterized what the DeMint Amendment would do. In his letter to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NR) Sloane said, "AARP strongly opposes this attempt to resurrect a proposal that the American public has soundly rejected. AARP believes this proposal has serious consequences for our nation's overall fiscal health and Social Security's long term outlook." Sloane added that "private accounts do nothing to address long-term solvency."

After the vote Senator DeMint was angry that the AARP had painted his amendment as a privatization proposal. "This said absolutely nothing about personal accounts. It was about whether you believe Social Security should be saved or allowed to wither on the vine," he said.

Senator DeMint stated that the 53 Democrat and Republican senators who voted against his amendment "turned their backs on America's seniors. There is simply no way to save Social Security if we don't have the courage to stop using the surplus as a secret slush fund."

Of course, AARP has long been on record in supporting the continued use of Social Security surpluses for non-Social Security purposes. In its own policy book, AARP declares, "For years, each political party has accused the other of raiding the Social Security Trust Fund. In fact, no one has raided the fund. In times of deficit, the Treasury borrows from Social Security to meet government obligations. If the Treasury did not borrow from Social Security it would have to borrow from the public. . . AARP supports the continual build up of the trust funds."

If these bills can't be passed and the public is so unknowledgable about what is going on, then let's follow the money trail.

AARP works to influence Congress in a liberal direction on a wide range of economic and social issues. Yet the federal government gives its affiliate, the AARP Foundation, $80 MILLION each year in grants, including $73 MILLION from the Department of Labor (DOL) as part of a $433 MILLION wasteful boondoggle, the Senior Service Employment Program (SCSEP).

SCSEP is supposed to subsidize training and temporary part-time, minimum wage jobs to low-income seniors, with the goal of eventually helping them obtain permanent, non-subsidized jobs.

Here are two points, from a financial point, that makes this clear.

First, the White House Office of Management (OMB) and the Congress General Accounting Office (GAO) with an Inspector General (IG) at each federal department, did an assessment of SCSEP in July 2005 and graded SCSEP ineffective and wasteful in multiple wages.

OMB grades each program with percentage scores - 100 percent being perfect performance and 0 percent being no performance at all. Here's how SCSEP was graded by OMB in several key performance categories: Program Purpose and Design - 40 percent; Strategic Planning - 57 percent; Program Management - 57 percent; Program Results/Accountability - 7 percent; Program Uniqueness - 0 percent; Coordination with other agencies - 0 percent

So, OMB is telling us itself that SCSEP has a useless purpose, is badly designed, is poorly managed and planned, gets pathetic results, is not all unique and many other government agencies are doing the same thing.

SCSEP is clearly a failure.

Secondly, if SCSEP is so good by AARP standards, why are there already in the Labor Department, 35 major programs to help educate and train disabled persons to find good jobs, 22 plus at Veterans Affairs, 28 at the Education Department and 34 at the Health and Human Services Department?

AARP's own example of "successes" clearly prove that SCSEP duplicates other federal programs and performs its mission very poorly.

The only way to stop this unlimited spending is to address our senator, congressman, or representative by mail, phone or computer, but do it and do it now. We may not be able to save everybody's Social Security, but if we work now we might be able to save for those in the future. Might!

Glenn Hatley