Hansen calls privatizing Social Security a ‘raw deal’ at rally

State Sen. Dave Hansen calls President Bush’s proposed changes to the Social Security system a “raw deal” for Wisconsin.

Speaking before a group of about 60 people at a meeting sponsored by Wisconsin United To Protect Social Security, Hansen, D-Green Bay, said the proposal would cut benefits and increase debt by trillions of dollars.

“The cuts will inevitably lead to a heavier reliance on state assistance,” he said.

Hansen, who contends the Social Security trust fund will run out of money 14 years sooner under the proposed plan, has pushed for a state resolution calling on Congress to reject the idea of private accounts.

“It makes Social Security funding programs worse, not better and it does not address solvency,” he told the group.

Hansen said more than 928,000 people in the state receive Social Security benefits.

Organizers of the meeting said they want U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Hobart, to take a stand on the issue. They said Green was invited to the meeting but did not attend due to a scheduling conflict.

In the past, Green has said he will not back Social Security reform that cuts benefits or increases.

“I am willing, however, to consider some creative solutions — such as the voluntary personal accounts the president has proposed,” he said in a statement. “Some folks have confused this with ‘privatization.’ It’s not. Social Security is and always should remain a government venture, and the personal accounts being considered would be strictly voluntary — if folks don’t want to participate, they don’t have to.”

Bush has proposed creating individual accounts invested in specifically selected financial markets as part of Social Security reform that he has made his top domestic priority. Under the proposal, a portion of Social Security payments could be put in an individual-investment account.

Bush has said the plan is not expected to affect people 55 years old or older.

The current Social Security system is expected to begin running cash deficits in 2018. Social Security Administration officials project scheduled benefits can be paid until 2041.

Proponents of the plan maintain private accounts are a way Americans can build real net wealth and it will allow younger workers to set aside a “nest egg” that they own and control and can pass on to future generations.

Groups that support the idea — like FreedomWorks — contend under the current system most young workers are likely to get less back in retirement benefits than they paid into the system.

They see private accounts as a move that would help grow the economy and provide a secure retirement.

But Julie Adams of Green Bay and Valerie Bruheim of Appleton said that, if anything, the proposal brings additional risks with it.

“Bush can’t guarantee we’re still going to have it when I get to (retirement age),” Adams said. “Yes there are some things that need to be changed … but we need the government to stop taking money out of Social Security and we need the government to pay back what they have taken out of Social Security and leave it alone.”

Both Adams, 35, and Bruheim, 30, attended the meeting Thursday.

“The market is very fluid and you’re not going to be guaranteed benefits … and I don’t want to live based on what the market is going to do,” Bruheim said.

No one at the meeting spoke in favor of Bush’s proposal.