- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

Without a program of their own to reform Social Security, Democrats seem determined to continue demagoguing the issue in the 2002 midterm elections. Their goals, of course, are to retain their razor-thin majority in the Senate and to eke out the handful or so of additional seats they need to recapture the House.

So, it was hardly surprising when Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Tom Daschle, held a June 13 news conference to blast President Bush's endorsement of personal investment accounts as part of a major reform of Social Security. In a letter to the president signed by 49 Democrats, Sen. Daschle asserted: "We believe that the benefit cuts proposed by [the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security] are so drastic that, so long as they remain on the table, they will make it difficult to establish a viable bipartisan process."

This tiresome refrain about "benefit cuts" has been too much to stomach for former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Responding to such charges, Mr. Moynihan and AOL Time Warner executive Richard Parsons, both of whom co-chaired the Social Security Commission, declared: "We are specifically concerned by erroneous statements that the creation of personal accounts within Social Security would lead to benefit reductions for current seniors. Such statements are simply untrue."

A week earlier, alluding to the Democrats' propensity to appeal to "the fear factor" and employ "incendiary rhetoric," Jo Anne Barnhart, the head of the Social Security Adminstration, told Donald Lambro of The Washington Times that "I want to reassure retirees and near-retirees that they will not have a reduction in benefits."

In a June 13 statement responding to Democratic charges, Timothy Penny, a former Democratic representative from Minnesota and a member of the Social Security commission, declared: "[I]mplications that today's average benefit level of near $10,000 [per year] would be reduced by any of the commission's recommendations are absolutely false. As has been demonstrated repeatedly," Mr. Penny added, "each of the commission models would provide for future expected benefit levels that are higher than are paid today and higher than could be paid in the long run from the existing Social Security system."

As a matter of fact, in 2038, when all of the IOUs in the so-called trust fund will have been redeemed and paid out as benefits, the existing Social Security system, which demagogic Democrats seem determined to preserve at all costs, will be able to pay only 75 percent of the benefits it has promised. Those are the real-life "benefit cuts" that future retirees face if the present system is not reformed. Mr. Moynihan, the former Democratic senator, understands this; so do Mr. Daschle and his Democratic colleagues. The difference is that Mr. Moynihan will tell the truth in the hope of preventing a disaster; Mr. Daschle et al. will tell falsehoods in the hope of obtaining the decisive votes from frightened senior citizens who are being told falsely that their benefits will be reduced. This is disgraceful.

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