Skip to comments.Dick Armey: NH can make retirement security a part of the Presidential debate
Posted on 07/25/2007 5:49:58 AM PDT by jirwin08
REFORMING retirement security in America is the greatest political opportunity -- and responsibility -- of our generation. Yet the topic of Social Security and Medicare is shockingly absent from Presidential hustings.
Simply ignoring the problem does not mean it is going away. Thomas Saving, a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare programs, estimates a breathtaking $83.6 trillion unfunded liability in the two entitlements, which is a tremendous gap between promised obligations and what the government will actually collect in payroll taxes.
Serious reforms of these broken government programs based on personal ownership have fallen victim to Republicans who don't dare and Democrats who don't care. Washington simply will not take the issue of retirement security seriously, until the American people force them to do so.
After all of the political demagoguery and tactical missteps of last year's failed debate, what do the American people actually think about their retirement security under Social Security and Medicare? New survey data released by McLaughlin and Associates found that nearly nine in 10 likely voters are concerned about "catastrophic problems with Social Security and Medicare in the future that could directly affect the quality of [their] retirement." These findings transcended party lines.
The core problem is not merely one of solvency. We could balance the books tomorrow by drastically slashing benefits and raising taxes. Paying more and getting less is considered a "bipartisan fix," but such painful solutions only temporarily solve the government's problem and do nothing to improve the retirement security of Americans. Such a fix will force younger workers to pay a double penalty of higher taxes during their working life, only to receive less of a benefit in retirement.
The McLaughlin survey makes it clear that voters want entitlement reform to be a major part of the national conversation during the 2008 presidential campaign. Ninety-six percent of voters said it is important that "a candidate for President in 2008 concentrates on the present and future problems with Social Security and Medicare by discussing and demonstrating a realistic plan to provide retirement security for current and future retirees."
Voters also want elected officials to take a broad look at the problem, with a strong super-majority of 84 percent of voters agreeing that a national retirement security program should include provisions for health care, as well as income.
Voters are not afraid of change, with seven in 10 approving of "changing our current retirement system so that their payroll taxes are placed in a secure account that they own and control and are allowed to grow until they retire when they can withdraw the funds as they need for income and health care expenses."
It is time to give American workers the chance to create and fund protected retirement accounts that they can own, control and pass on to their children. The government would provide the structure and appropriate safeguards, but the individuals would have control over their own retirement destiny.
Outside of government, there is an ownership revolution, with bankrupt defined-benefit pension plans being replaced with individually owned defined-contribution retirement plans, which are portable, interest-earning and secure. Let us also be clear that leaving federally sponsored entitlement plans should be optional; individuals would simply be given the choice between federal or personal control.
This is where the voters of New Hampshire have a special responsibility. If primary voters demand action on entitlements, politicians will respond. On June 6, when asked by activists from Students for Saving Social Security whether he would support giving people more control over their retirement accounts, Mayor Rudy Giuliani responded, "I'm going to tell you my overall philosophy that applies to Social Security, health care, jobs, school choice: It's your money. You should have as much control over it as I can give you. You can do a better job with your money than the mess in Washington. When we give you more control over Social Security, we move forward."
Sen. John McCain and Gov. Mitt Romney have made similar public statements in support of personal accounts, but the issue is unfortunately not mentioned on the issue pages of their respective campaign Web sites. Social Security is also conspicuously absent from the issue pages of the leading Democratic candidates.
I believe that pocketbook voters in New Hampshire -- Democrats, Republicans and independents -- are looking for a political entrepreneur willing to break convention by offering a serious, adult policy solution to the federal government's failing retirement programs. If voters build the political stage for real change, will the next President have the wisdom to step up?
Dick Armey, U.S. House majority leader from 1995 to 2002, is chairman of FreedomWorks Foundation.
“Thomas Saving, a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare programs....
I think he must be outvoted by his cousins Billy and Bobby Spending.
Thomas Saving is the only one I know who has proposed a Medicare plan that deals with the funding side of the problem
I agree, but instead the Dems want to take over two industries and raise our taxes. For me, that’s just cognitive dissonance stemming from a denial of reality. We don’t need lawyers messing up medicine and schools. We do need government reform.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus