For Immediate Release:Friday, February 25, 2005

Contact: Bob Weiner/Rebecca Vander Linde - 301-283-0821/202-329-1700



FLA. OPED CALLS FOR HONESTY IN SOCIAL SECURITY DEBATE:
FORMER HOUSE AGING COMMITTEE DIRECTOR ROBERT WEINER
IN TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT
TODAY REPORTS BUSH "FACT SHEET IS ANYTHING BUT"


(Washington, DC) – The former Chief of Staff of the U.S. House Aging Committee, Robert Weiner, today called for honesty in Social Security discussions and asserted that President Bush’s “fact sheet” is “anything but.” In an op-ed piece in today’s Tallahassee Democrat – the capital of the nation’s most senior-rich state – Weiner points to the White House “Fact Sheet” on Social Security which asserts that “By the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra $200 billion a year” and “By 2033… more than $300 billion.”  It goes on, “By 2042… the system will be bankrupt.”

 

Weiner claims, “None of these assertions is true, yet the unfounded fear is the basis of the proposal for so-called reform. The reality, according to the Congressional Budget Office, is that the Social Security Trust Fund -- the surplus of what people have paid in -- covers the program fully through 2052.” Weiner says that Bush just doesn’t want to repay the IOU’s the government by law owes seniors because “President Bush wants to spend the annual Social Security surpluses (currently $145 billion annually) for other programs and to cover up the overarching deficit for all other federal programs – some $500 billion annually. That’s the dirty little secret of why the Administration does not want to honor and desperately seeks to change the promises under current law: it uses the Social Security surplus to pays off Bush’s favorite projects such as tax cuts for the wealthy and the Iraq war,” Weiner says in explaining his oped.
 

Weiner asserts, “There will be no Social Security ‘bankruptcy’ in 2042 or even in 2052.  President Bush’s Fact Sheet figure for 2042 is based on the Social Security Trustees’ two-year old estimate that in that year, the Trust Fund will be able to cover 73% of benefits. The Congressional Budget Office, reflecting somewhat more current economic improvements, states that 80% will be covered in 2052, more than now, factoring in inflation. Further economic improvements could stop any shortfall.  Even if the CBO or SSA figures were to become accurate in 40-50 years, Congress could easily then cover all or part of the difference or then make changes to the program. It would not be the big deal Bush is making it out to be.”

“The ‘Baby Boomer’ factor so often cited by Bush is a short transitional matter. The ‘Boomers’ aren’t booming with babies themselves. Their own record parenting rate of 2.1 per woman (1970-2000) is the lowest rare in history, according to the National for Health Statistics. The system will go back into a huge SURPLUS because of the need to pay fewer beneficiaries.  What we really have is a solvable “blip” followed by a totally secure system.”

Weiner asserts that “the facts are beginning to take hold, and the ‘reformers’ (in truth destroyers) appear to be beginning to cave. Former House Speaker New Gingrich asserted the Republicans in Congress ‘could lose the majority’ over the White House proposal.  Current Speaker Dennis Hastert added, ‘You can’t jam change down the American people’s throat unless they perceive there really is a problem.’  Now Bush is saying he won’t even put forward a formal proposal, he wants Congress to do it.”

Weiner reports that “House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and new Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean told me they are ready to respond to proposals on a bipartisan basis, but only after the Republicans change the hyperbolic mentality and discuss the problem rationally.”  Weiner adds, “As Senator Hillary Clinton rightly told me last year, ‘We need to change the premise of the debate.’”


Robert Weiner was Chief of Staff of the House Aging Committee under Chairman Claude Pepper (D-FL) and a senior public affairs director in the Clinton White House.  He now heads a Washington public affairs think tank, Robert Weiner Associates ( www.weinerpublic.com ).

(Source: Robert Weiner Associates 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700)