Sunday, March 06, 2005

MCCONNELL GETS CREAMED Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) got the better of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) this morning on Meet the Press. Some highlights:
MR. RUSSERT: What does private personal accounts do to fix the solvency problem? I don't understand that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What personal accounts are is an extraordinarily good investment. Let's take a 25-year-old, for example. Invests $1,000 in regular Social Security, gets a 2 percent return over 40 years, he gets $61,000. That same young person investing that same $1,000 in a personal retirement account, looking at the average return on investment of the stock market, would get $100,000 more. Why don't we at least discuss that in the context of the overall effort to save Social Security for our children and our grandchildren?

MR. RUSSERT: But how does that help the solvency problem?

SEN. McCONNELL: But why not discuss it? If it is a better deal for younger workers, why rule out adding that to the overall discussion of how we not only save Social Security but make it better for the next generation.

MR. RUSSERT: But when the president says Social Security is going to go bankrupt and we have a problem with solvency and the solution is private accounts, people don't understand that connection. Private accounts don't seem to deal with the solvency problem alone. And the White House acknowledges that.

SEN. McCONNELL: What we want to do is make Social Security better for the next generation, in addition to saving it. At the risk of being redundant, it seems to me that the smart thing to do is to discuss all aspects of this. Every good idea ought to come to the table. We're certainly open to any suggestions the Democrats have in any part of this discussion.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Durbin, if you're trying to fix a problem, why would you say, "We will not sit down and talk to the president until he meets our demand by taking off the table private and personal accounts"?

SEN. DURBIN: Tim, I first came to Congress in 1983. We faced a real crisis in Social Security. We weren't sure we were going to make the payments that year. And so President Reagan turned to Tip O'Neill, a great Republican turned to a great Democrat, and said, "We need to do this on a bipartisan basis." Alan Greenspan led the commission. The very first agreement on that commission was that Social Security fundamentally would stay the same for generations to come. There was no debate over whether Social Security, as a program, would be protected and maintained. That's what we're saying on the Democratic side.

The privatization proposal of the president is going to destroy Social Security as we know it. And let me tell you why. It doesn't strengthen Social Security. It weakens it. It doesn't address the solvency problem. Secondly, we know that the White House is envisioning deep benefit cuts that will push many senior citizens into poverty. And we also know that there's a $2 to $5 trillion--trillion--transition cost here. The president cannot explain how we would pay for it. We understand people have earned this Social Security benefit. They want a guaranteed benefit as a secure foundation for their requirement. You can't start the conversation with privatization, which strikes at the heart of Social Security.
Notice how McConnell simply refuses to engage the solvency question.

That's because the White House has already conceded that it's plan will add trillions of dollars to the national debt; will involve scaling back guaranteed benefits; and will do nothing to solve the Social Security solvency problem.

People like Durbin--who are able to state simply and concisely what's at stake--should be all over the airwaves with this message straight through 2006.

And if the Democratic party doesn't capitalize on this serious Republican miscalculation, it ought to be put out of business.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.