Social Security Reform ‘Greatest Domestic Policy Challenge,’ Lawmaker Says

September 30, 2003

Rep. Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday that will attempt to stabilize and protect Social Security benefits for retiring Americans throughout the 21st century.

“Social Security reform is a defining challenge for this generation, and is arguably the greatest domestic policy challenge of our time,” DeMint stated. “If we succeed, we preserve and strengthen Social Security for future generations. If we fail, we risk breaking our promise to seniors and crippling future generations with higher taxes and an insecure retirement.”

“The Social Security Savings Act,” or H.R. 3177, would allow for of a large portion of Social Security withholdings to be invested by workers and their families before the system goes bankrupt.

“Social Security is going bankrupt, and it is critical for Congress to act quickly,” DeMint warned.

He pointed to a recent Social Security Trustee’s Report that showed there will be more people drawing Social Security benefits than money coming into the system by the year 2018. Congress will have to decide at that time whether to cut some of the benefits or raise taxes, DeMint said.

He cautions that “every year Congress delays the cost of reform increases significantly.”

DeMint adds that his plan “protects promised benefits and allows Americans the option of saving a large portion of their current payroll tax dollars in a personal Social Security savings account they can own and pass on to their families.”

Under the current Social Security system, benefits cannot be legally passed on to other family members. This bill would allow for individuals to take ownership of their own personal retirement accounts.

DeMint says his plan is nearly the same one afforded to all federal lawmakers and employees called the Thrift Savings Plan and he believes it should be made available to the American public as well.

“Working Americans should have the same retirement security and options members of Congress, their staffs and all federal employees enjoy,” DeMint said. “If personal retirement accounts are safe for members of Congress and their staff, they are certainly safe for every other American.”

DeMint says if nothing is done to reform Social Security, it will cost taxpayers $25 trillion over the next 75 years. He states that under his plan, the costs will only be $8 trillion over that same period.

In fact, DeMint says Social Security would be financially solvent in 55 years and would enable poor and middle-income families to have a chance for a secure retirement. He believes this is an historic opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to bring about real Social Security reform.

“If Democrats and Republicans are serious about closing the wealth gap and helping low and middle-income Americans create wealth, we must work together to strengthen Social Security with personal savings accounts,” DeMint charged his fellow Congressmen. “America has spent trillions on programs to address poverty, but very little to help low-income Americans create wealth and own a share of the future.”

DeMint, who is running for the seat held by retiring Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) in 2004, had been hoping to release the legislation in a bipartisan effort with Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN). Although Ford said he liked DeMint’s “progressive” plan, which he said “would allow assets to be passed on from generation to generation,” he pulled his support because he did not know how it was going to be paid for.

“I applaud Democrats like Ford and others who have abandoned the partisan scare tactics that treated personal wealth creation accounts as risky and dangerous,” DeMint said. “Social Security reform should not be a partisan issue.”

A group called believes something needs to be done soon to protect the Social Security benefits for today’s youth when they decide to retire.

“Most politicians don’t take a 50- to 75-year perspective, but this plan will modernize Social Security and move it to a funded system that will be regulated by the government,” said the group’s president, Bob Costello. “It will guarantee ownership of Social Security benefits that politicians won’t be able to touch.”

The grassroots economic group Citizens for a Sound Economy says DeMint’s plan is something that can and should be seriously considered by Congress.

“DeMint’s proposed spending restraint, surprisingly, is well within the proven ability of our politicians in Washington,” a group spokesman said. “Slowing government spending is a good idea in its own right, but when done to help us get personal retirement accounts, it is righteous.”

DeMint says his bill would help Social Security move forward, not back.

“It’s time for Congress to modernize Social Security and prepare it for the challenges of 2030, not restrict it to the conditions of 1930,” he said. “My bill gives a guarantee to those who need it, choice to those who want it, and retirement security for everyone.”

“The Social Security Savings Act” does not currently have any co-sponsors in the U.S. House, but is expected to gain many over the next few weeks. It has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

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