For Immediate Release: 12:01 AM Saturday, November 1, 2003 Contact: Bob Weiner/Alexandra Boyne 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700
SOCIAL SECURITY DEFICIT IS "MYTH"; FORMER CLAUDE PEPPER CHIEF OF STAFF BOB WEINER SAYS "WE NEED PEPPER’S COURAGE NOW"
(Washington, DC) – Bob Weiner, the former Chief of Staff of the House Aging Committee under Claude Pepper, asserts that the Social Security deficit – one of the major issues in the current presidential campaign, raised by both parties and newspapers across the country – is a "myth". In an op-ed in the Miami Herald today and in letters to President Bush, Democratic presidential candidates, and congressional leaders, Weiner points out that the Trust Fund is solvent for 39 years, that "baby boomers aren’t booming with babies themselves" so the fund will actually be even more solvent with fewer withdrawals down the road.
Weiner asserts that what many political leaders and "flamethrowers" are actually doing is "using solvent Social Security money to reduce the overall federal deficit." Weiner is calling for the same "courage" today that Pepper displayed 25 years ago in fighting against benefit reductions such as delay of eligibility dates, lower cost of living allowances, and voluntarizing the program.
In today’s Miami Herald ("The Myth of the Social Security Deficit: We Need Claude Pepper’s Courage Now"), and in his letter to President Bush, congressional leaders, and all nine Democratic presidential candidates, Weiner states:
Weiner says he remembers "Pepper’s outrage in 1978 at Carter Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps’ statement reported in the press about increasing the retirement age to 68 for full Social Security retirement benefits. Pepper demanded and got a meeting of Kreps with himself and House Social Security Chairman James Burke (D-MA). Senator Pepper kept saying he and Burke would ‘fight it to our death.’ Kreps asked, ‘Even (delaying the start) to the year 2000?’ Both members vehemently exclaimed, ‘Yes!’ Kreps finally responded, ‘Well, I haven’t made the proposal anyway.’ That’s how it’s done, and that’s the courage we need from somewhere now," Weiner asserts.
Weiner pointed out that one-third of Iowa caucus voters will be over 65. There are now 35 million Americans over 65 – one in every eight persons. In addition, they vote in the highest percentages of any age group.
So Weiner says, "It is time to quit scaring our seniors with false claims. Social Security should remain the third rail of American politics – it should stay untouched. Economic columnists like Robert Samuelson (The baby boomers ‘are in a conspiracy against our children’), congressmen like Nick Smith (R-MI) (‘Insolvency is certain’), and national political leaders from President Bush on down advocating benefit reductions, delays, or privatization are just creating an excuse to fund the insolvent federal budget deficit."
"The idea of a ‘lock box’ is not absurd as some paint it. Social Security is just fine; what is scary on this Halloween is the words of our political leaders," Weiner concludes.
(Robert Weiner was Staff Director of the House Aging Committee, chaired by Cong. Claude Pepper (FL), 1975-1980, and advisor to Pepper until Pepper’s death in 1989. He has also been a senior aide to Congressmen Charles Rangel (NY), John Conyers, Jr.(MI), and Ed Koch (NY) (1974-75), and served in the Clinton and Bush White Houses for 6½ years (1995-2001). He is president of Robert Weiner Associates Public Affairs and Issue Strategies. For interviews or information, contact 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700.)