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SAug 26, 2011

Who Stole the Money in the Social Security Trust Fund?

Scott Burns
Who Stole the Money in the Social Security Trust Fund?

In a recent column, “The Coming American Spring,” I suggested that the smell of tear gas was in our future. It struck a nerve. Readers responded with a resounding roar. Some wanted to add a constitutional amendment for term limits to my list of changes we need to see. Others simply expressed frustration. Ideas are good, they wrote, but how do we make things happen? This column is a bipartisan step.

In April of 1983Social Security reforms were passed. The reforms enabled our government to collect what accumulated to the $2.6 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund. (The $2.6 trillion is a combination of taxes collected and accumulated interest.)

Our government took that money from workers and spent it on whatever. It left us with a Social Security Trust fund filled with IOUs from the U.S. Treasury. As I pointed out earlier this year, if we had invested that tax money for ourselves at 5 percent, it would have amounted to $18,000 for the average worker.

That, of course, is penny ante by Washington standards but it is real money to most of us. The government took money that would have improved our personal finances and spent it. Now both parties are talking about ways to cut Social Security benefits for future retirees.

Who can we hold responsible for this theft? The politicians who voted for the original reforms. As you might expect, most of the 535 Senators and Representatives who voted in 1983 are now retired. They are safely out of Washington, living happily on their large and inflation protected pensions for public service.

But not all.

If you go to the original vote tally and cross the names on it with the current seniority lists for the Senate and House of Representatives, you’ll find that 44 of the original voters for the 1983 Social Security reform bill are still in office. Nine are Senators who have had the same seat the entire time. Seven are Senators who voted in their earlier positions as Representatives. Twenty-eight are Representatives who have held that office since 1983 or earlier. This little group not only voted the extra taxes in place; they watched or participated in spending the money over the next 28 years. Criminal.

You may think me harsh, but I believe we don’t owe any consideration to any of the 44 names on this list. If we want an American Spring without the tear gas, we need to make a concerted effort to vote every one of them out of office. Call it a down payment on real change.

  • If they were among the 23 who voted for the bill, they made that $2.6 trillion theft possible and supported it for the next 28 years.
  • If they voted against it, as 16 did, we have to ask what constitutes cosmic ineffectiveness in office. Surely they qualify.
  • And what about the missing 5? Well, they failed to vote— on the most important program run by the U.S. government. And they are still in office.

O.K., maybe that is a bit hot-headed as an approach. Perhaps we should give the ineffective and indifferent more years to make more mess. Kind-hearted readers might prefer a more measured approach: Work hard to get the 23 who voted for the bill out of office.

The first step toward doing that is to know the name, state, party and elective position of the wrongdoers. Please note this really is a bi-partisan matter— the list below includes 14 Democrats and 9 Republicans. Here is the list.

The Politicians Still In Office Who Voted To Steal from American Workers

Name State Party Office
Burton, Dan IN R C
Baucus, Max MT D S
Bingaman, Jeff NM D S
Cochran, Thad MS R S
Dicks, Norm WA D C
Dingell, John MI D C
Durbin, Dick IL D S*
Grassley, Chuck IA R S
Harkin, Tom IA D S*
Kaptur, Marcy OH D C
Leahy, Patrick VT D S
Levin, Carl MI D S
Levin, Sander MI D C
Lugar, Richard IN R S
McCain, John AZ R S*
Mikulski, Barbara MD D S*
Miller, George CA D C
Petri, Tom WI R C
Rangel, Charles B. NY D C
Rogers, Hal KY R C
Shelby, Richard AL R S*
Stark, Pete CA D C
Young, Bill FL R C

(Note: C=Congressional Representative, S=Senator, S*=Currently in Senate, was a Representative in 1983)

Filed Under: Retirement