- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 16, 2002

The White House was being very kind recently when it characterized attacks by Sen. Jon Corzine, New Jersey Democrat, on the administration's Social Security reform agenda as "factual errors and misunderstandings."
What the millionaire senator was really guilty of was absolutely lying participating in a crass and cynical political campaign to scare senior citizens into opposing any reform measure that might make the ailing retirement program a better deal for their grandchildren. Mr. Corzine's contribution to the national dialogue: the bold-faced lie that allowing younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts (PSAs) would strip "trillions of dollars" from the Social Security trust fund "and force deep cuts in guaranteed benefits."
Are Republicans off base when they accuse Mr. Corzine and other Democrats of maliciously trying to scare seniors in the voting booth? You be the judge, after reading the content of a secret e-mail exchange between Democratic congressional offices.
In the e-mails, one congressional staffer questions whether a draft essay on Social Security is factually correct. The other staffer replies that it may, indeed, be "over the top." But that's OK, she says, because it's "sooo much fun to bash Republicans" on the issue.
Such Social Security scare tactics have been a staple of Democratic Party politics for decades now. Listen to what Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe said recently: "The president's misguided priorities are clear he'd rather give billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations than preserve one of the most popular and successful government programs in American history."
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, couldn't restrain himself either, saying, "The Republican House majority has produced a budget that raided $1.8 billion from the Social Security trust fund."To make this up, he added, "You'll have to cut benefits for today's elderly."
The scare tactics are not new. The Democrats routinely have been lying about Social Security and Medicare for years. In 1994, for example, Jeb Bush was on his way to defeating incumbent Lawton Chiles for the governorship of Florida. Some three days before the election, the Chiles campaign cranked up a $360,000 telephone campaign aimed at the 684,000 senior citizens living in seven heavily Republican counties. The message: that Jeb Bush would do away with Medicare.
So it goes, year after year, decade after decade, as our political "leaders" scare America's seniors threatening them with deep cuts in benefits while Social Security and Medicare move ever-closer to insolvency.
The story never changes always the same bad guys (Republicans); always the same good guys (Democrats); always the same outcome (long overdue needed changes in the Depression-era retirement program and Johnson-era health-care program are further delayed).
By now, we all know both programs are unsustainable in their present form at their present levels. But even talk in any meaningful way about fixing them and the Democratic leadership goes on the attack. If lying will give you the upper hand, you lie. If scaring senior citizens will buy you votes, you scare them. It's all part of the nasty game that now dominates Washington and, as a result, very little ever gets fixed.
Of course, the Democratic leadership will tell you they only have the best interests of the 60-plus generation at heart. The Republicans, on the other hand, as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, claimed on his Web page on April 24, want to "deplete the Social Security trust fund."
The message to senior citizens ought to be clear: Since certain members of Congress obviously think you're stupid, gullible and selfish, pay extra care when you see or hear one of those radio, television or print ads claiming Republicans are trying to take away your benefits.
The 60 Plus Association will help, by organizing a national traveling truth squad to challenge the misinformation and lies. But we can't be all places at all times.
Seniors should check the facts carefully before they accept any politician's claim that some other politician is trying to undermine Social Security or Medicare. It is more than likely a lie a lie whose only purpose is to scare you.

James L. Martin is president of the 60-Plus Association, a national organization representing senior citizens.


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