Monday, January 31, 2005

I Write Rep. Allen Boyd D[ixiecrat?]-FL ("Dean of the Fainthearted Faction")


Rep. Boyd,

I don't live in your Congressional district, but since you are one of the few Democrats, if not the only Democrat, taking the lead in proposing legislation which would dramatically change the Social Security program, and since this is likely to have a bigger impact on my generation than on yours (I am 25 years old), I ask you to consider this letter.

First of all, I noticed that in the "Saving Social Security" section of your website, you note that there is no "special account" for each person who pays into the Social Security system, and current relative surpluses go to pay current accounts.

Isn't it true, however, that during the term of the last President from your party, Bill Clinton, that there was effectively a true social-security trust fund since the government had enough money to cover its obligations without spending surplus funds from social security?

You mention that by 2019, government inflows from Social Security will exceed outflows, and that by 2042, the system will have reached complete insolvency.

Well, assuming that is true, why is Social Security to blame? Again, if we had a balanced budget with surpluses, the lifespan of Social Security would be extended every year. Couldn't we just as easily, and more logically, blame any problems with Social Security's longevity on a Congress and President who have allowed other spending to grow out of control, cutting taxes at the same time?

I think you would agree with me. In fact, you have said the exact same thing yourself. On August 29, 2001.

"Earlier this year, while the debate over the President's budget priorities was still going on, I joined my colleagues in the Blue Dog Coalition to warn that we should not commit so much of the surplus to new spending programs or tax cuts. Unfortunately, that recommendation fell on deaf ears. While the surplus has evaporated, President Bush still has $18.3 billion in additional defense spending proposals, $23 billion in new education spending proposals, $33 billion in energy tax credit legislation, and $13.3 billion in tax credits for charitable choice pending before Congress with no resources outside of the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for his new spending requests. "

To me, the bizareness of the logic you now seem to be applying becomes clear when similar logic is applied to the military budget (perhaps this is something which likely has already occurred to you, as a member of the Military Construction Subcommittee). At the rate military budgets have grown, say, over the last four years, the military is likely to require such large funding by the year 2042 that it will require more than all receipts for the US government. Thus, by your logic, the military is in crisis.

Oddly enough, the military is actually growing at a much more unsustainable pace than Social Security, but I don't understand why you seem to be more willing to take on a program that keeps millions of seniors out of poverty than a bloated defense industry.

Mr. Boyd, how much time have you devoted to studying the results of other countries that have experimented with private investment retirement accounts, such as Chile, Sweden, and Argentina? Does it concern you that the results of such plans have often been millions of seniors with inadequate incomes to meet their basic needs? And if so, how is your plan going to prevent it?

A recent New York Times article about Chile's experience exemplifies my concerns.

"Dagoberto Sáez, for example, is a 66-year-old laboratory technician here who plans, because of a recent heart attack, to retire in March. He earns just under $950 a month; his pension fund has told him that his nearly 24 years of contributions will finance a 20-year annuity paying only $315 a month.

"Colleagues and friends with the same pay grade who stayed in the old system, people who work right alongside me," he said, "are retiring with pensions of almost $700 a month - good until they die. I have a salary that allows me to live with dignity, and all of a sudden I am going to be plunged into poverty, all because I made the mistake of believing the promises they made to us back in 1981.""

I am a Democrat because I find it to be the party of the powerless. Are you a Democrat out of a belief in social justice? If so, how will your program ensure that more people are better off, and fewer are worse off? How will it ensure that fewer are in poverty?


What are you going to do to prevent Dagoberto Sáezs? Are you concerned? You should be.


Thanks for taking the time to answer,


James Hassan

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