- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2000


Vice President Al Gore's legacy of flip-flops tobacco, abortion, welfare reform, missile defense, etc. reveals him to be among the more cynical politicians of his generation. But it is the issue of Social Security reform on which Mr. Gore has been most cynical and his flip-flop the most extreme. On no other issue has Mr. Gore been more disingenuous.
The vice president has aggressively distorted the poorly received, badly flawed Social Security-reform proposal that President Clinton unveiled during his 1999 State of the Union address. According to Mr. Gore's revisionist history, not a dime of the $700 billion the federal government would have invested in the stock market from 2000 through 2014.
Mr. Gore felt compelled to make this fallacious argument so that he could demagogue George W. Bush's proposal to permit workers to divert voluntarily a portion of their payroll taxes perhaps 2 percentage points of the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax to individual investment accounts. Indeed, no sooner had the Bush campaign announced that the Republican presidential candidate would be making a major speech outlining reforms in Social Security than Mr. Gore invited The Washington Post to his residence to deny that the 1999 Clinton-Gore plan envisioned the government using payroll taxes or money already in the Social Security trust fund to invest in the stock market.
Unfortunately for Mr. Gore, his revisionist arithmetic does not square with the 1999 administration Social Security plan he so enthusiastically supported. In last year's State of the Union address, Mr. Clinton proposed allocating to Social Security $2.7 trillion of the $4.4 trillion in cumulative federal budget surpluses the administration projected over the next 15 years. Further, the federal government would invest $700 billion of that $2.7 trillion in the stock market to help preserve Social Security.
Now, as it happens, the cumulative 15-year projected Social Security surplus exceeded $2.7 trillion. Thus, not only is it true that the $700 billion would have to come directly from Social Security payroll taxes; it was also true that the Clinton-Gore plan envisioned using the hundreds of billions of dollars in Social Security surpluses above $2.7 trillion to finance other governmental programs. It wasn't until Republicans trumped the Clinton-Gore plan by creating a Social Security "lock box" that Mr. Gore agreed to use all of Social Security's funds to solve Social Security's problems.
During the same month Mr. Clinton proposed his stock-investment scheme, Mr. Gore was a very enthusiastic proponent of capturing the higher returns offered in the stock market to help solve Social Security's long-term financial problems. "You know, during this whole national discussion, one of the single most important salient facts that jumped out at everybody is that over any 10-year period in American history," the vice president argued, "returns on equities are just significantly higher than the returns [on Social Security]. And in order to capture some part of that economic advantage, surely there is a way to solve these problems."
Last week, it was the New York Times' turn to visit the vice president at his residence, no doubt to learn how Mr. Gore's views on stock market investments to preserve Social Security had "evolved." Notwithstanding all the rhetorical somersaults that Mr. Gore's most serious flip-flop required, the most telling paragraph in the Times' story revealed this fact: "Some advisers to Mr. Gore said the vice president had dropped his support for government investment in the stock market in part to make it easier for him to attack Mr. Bush's approach." It just doesn't get more cynical than that.

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