- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2005

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could not have been more clear in explaining the Democratic plan to solve Social Security’s long-term solvency problem. Earlier this month she told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday: “The [Democratic] plan for solvency is to stop robbing Social Security of its [surplus] money for other purposes. The plan is to return the money back to the trust fund.” In offering the minority party’s budget blueprint two weeks ago, House Democrats got their opportunity to present their plan. And they failed miserably to act on Mrs. Pelosi’s words. In fact, over 10 years, the Democrats’ budget falls short of Mrs. Pelosi’s “plan for solvency” by a whopping $3.6 trillion.

In order to meet Mrs. Pelosi’s standard, the annual budget should reflect a total (or unified) surplus equal to the amount of the Social Security surplus. In that way, excess Social Security funds would not be spent on other government programs, as they are currently.

For fiscal 2006, the House Budget Committee estimated a Social Security surplus of $189 billion. To protect that surplus in accordance with Mrs. Pelosi’s standard, the budget should reflect a total surplus in that amount. The Democratic budget missed its target by $554 billion for 2006.

Compared to a total 2006 budget deficit of $376 billion projected by House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, the Democratic budget alternative shows a deficit of $365 billion. Generating a $365 billion total deficit, however, requires the Democrats to use the $189 billion Social Security surplus to finance other government programs. (That surplus represents the amount by which Social Security-related tax revenue and trust-fund interest income exceed benefit payments.) Thus, without the Social Security surplus, which Mrs. Pelosi supposedly wants to protect, the Democratic deficit would be $554 billion. And that is only for 2006.

Indeed, over the entire 2006-15 period covered by the Democratic budget blueprint, the Democrats fail to meet Mrs. Pelosi’s standard each and every year. And they fail by enormous amounts. Social Security trustees, in their 2005 report issued on Wednesday, estimate that Social Security trust-fund surpluses, including interest income, will total $2.4 trillion from 2006 through 2015. Over the same period, the Democratic budget blueprint would generate budget deficits totaling $1.2 trillion. Without relying on the $2.4 trillion in Social Security surpluses from 2006-15, the Democratic budget deficits would total $3.6 trillion. Clearly, Mrs. Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues do not have the courage of their espoused convictions.

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