I am referring, of course, to the single benefit of the last Presidential campaign. Republicans and Democrats finally became sensitized to the condition of the Social Security Trust Fund. Before last years' election the Trust Fund was a non-subject.
Today, protecting the Trust Fund is the only thing both parties agree upon.
Too bad both parties are full of liars.
As everyone knows, the Federal surplus is vaporizing. The democrats, led by Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle, lay all of this at the feet of George W. Bush.
"This is the result of the Bush budget and the Bush tax cut," the Senator is quoted on page one of the New York Times. "Certainly, they're the architects of our current economic condition, and I think we have to turn to them for leadership now as we find our way out of the box that has been created."
Which makes one wonder.
George W. Bush has been in Washington less than nine months.
Tom Daschle has been in Washington since 1978. He was in the House of Representatives from 1978 to 1986. Then he was elected to the Senate. He represents the state of South Dakota, population 755,000.
Query: What did Senator Daschle, now the leader of the Democratic Party, do to protect the Social Security Trust Fund during all those years?
Senator Daschle was not unique. He had a lot of company in both parties.
Here's the history. The Social Security Trust fund had a balance of $27.5 billion in 1978, barely enough to pay a few months of expenditures. In the next five years, expenditures continued to exceed revenues. By 1983 Congress had to shift $5.5 billion from the general fund to the trust fund to keep Social Security checks from bouncing.
Congress responded with a large increase in the most regressive tax in America, the employment tax. The idea was to spend the next 30 years building a Trust Fund balance large enough to handle the early years of baby boomer retirements.
Unfortunately, the same Congress spent the money and left Treasury I.O.U.s in the Trust fund. Additional Treasury obligations are issued to reflect the interest earned.
In effect, the Social Security became Washington's slush fund. When the regular budget ran a deficit, it didn't feel quite so bad because surplus Social Security cash helped finance it. It wasn't necessary to borrow quite so much from domestic or foreign investors.
What does it all mean?
Simply this. Politicians like Tom Daschle were responsible for increasing the tax that costs most Americans more than the Federal income tax. Then they spent the money and endangered the retirement security of working Americans.
The Democrats have failed miserably in their commitment to working Americans. The Republicans failed as badly in their commitment to a balanced budget.
Needless to say, neither party has accepted any responsibility. Democrats blame Ronald Reagan and the Republicans for tax cuts that created deficits. Republicans blame Democrats for rising spending levels that created deficits. The whole business was hidden from the public, like a dirty family secret, for nearly twenty years.
Only last year, when there appeared to be significant Federal surplus, did they dare talk about keeping the Social Security Trust fund "safe."
Sadly, the only way to keep the Social Security Fund "safe" may be to take the money away from the posturing politicians. That's why we should privatize Social Security for the next generation.
Tuesday: The Surplus Didn't Shrink, It Never Existed
See the assets of the Social Security Trust fund from 1937 to the present
See the rising amount of interest credited to the Social Security Trust fund
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