Bush Wrong on Social Security and Medicare,

Says Former House Aging Committee Staff Director

9/2/2004 10:46:00 PM


To: National Desk

Contact: Bob Weiner, 301-283-0821

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Former House Aging Committee Staff Director Robert Weiner, who served under Committee Chairman Claude Pepper (D-FL), in response to President George W. Bush's latest comments on Social Security during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, is taking strong issue over the President's warning over the system's solvency and his call for federal benefit reductions through voluntarization.

Weiner asserts, "The President's latest warning on Social Security - 'Many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there' -- ignores the Congressional Budget Office's June report that the system is solvent with no changes for at least forty-eight years, ten more than previously thought. The Social Security Trustees' own report last year also added time to the expectation for solvency."

Weiner continues, "There is no need to scare potential retirees by calling for voluntarizing the system into a personal stock portfolio, as the President has just done, especially with the uncertainty of the stock market itself now. Nor do we need to discuss, as others have done, raising the age of eligibility, increasing payroll taxes, or decreasing benefits.

"The President wants to balance the new federal deficit on the backs of the elderly and their sacred, solvent social security system, on which they depend. It is all well and good for the government to find ways to compensate for the administration's tax cuts and the war in Iraq, but there are obvious answers for each without stealing from the solvent Social Security Fund. While I was Staff Director of the House Aging Committee, I remember when the late champion of the elderly, Congressman Claude Pepper (D-FL), Chairman of the committee, expressed outrage back in 1978 at Carter Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps' suggestion in the press to increase the retirement age. Pepper demanded and got a meeting of Kreps with himself and House Social Security Subcommittee Chairman James Burke (D-MA) and said he and Burke would 'fight it to our death.' 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.

"John Kerry has in fact said 'Never' to reducing or voluntarizing Social Security benefits; George Bush has proposed partial voluntarization."

Weiner adds, "The President also calls for Medicare reform via health savings accounts --also privatizing the system. But the real problem is that the Republicans' newly added prescription program does threaten Medicare financing. Solutions including allowing the government to negotiate rates and permitting cheaper imports, blocked by the administration, need to be employed. John Kerry supports both, and President Bush opposes both - again, the American people can impact the debate.

"Especially as the elections approach, it's time for real policy discussions instead of stirring up fear when debating Social Security and Medicare. I believe President Bush knows better but insists on catering to America's corporate interests instead of truly helping the seniors who need our best efforts to assure productive retirement years," Weiner concludes.

Weiner was Staff Director of the House Aging Committee 1976- 1980, and later served as communications director for the House Government Operations Committee and the White House Drug Policy Office. He is now president of a public affairs and issue strategies company.

(Source: Robert Weiner Associates 301-283-0821)