Santa Paula Times

Act now or lose Social Security to Washington spenders

October 01, 1999
By Congressman Elton Gallegly
Seventy-six million baby boomers are marching toward retirement. Medicare is projected to go bankrupt within a decade. Social Security is projected to go into the red in 15 years. In light of these facts, the House of Representatives passed the Social Security and Medicare Safe Deposit Box Act in May on an overwhelming 416-12 bipartisan vote. The Senate leadership supports locking away our Social Security and Medicare funds. President Clinton has pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare funds.But those funds remain in danger. Politics has stalled the bill in the Senate. Without a law protecting Social Security and Medicare funds, they remain open to a midnight raid by those who believe increasing spending now is more important than planning for the future.Within the next few weeks, the intense negotiations will begin between those who believe in controlling government expenditures and those who believe in spending every penny Washington has, and then some. It's an annual ritual that for the past three decades has ended by dipping into Social Security and Medicare funds to pay for general government expenditures. Since 1970, $3.5 trillion of our retirees' money has been spent on every government program but retirement security.Some would like to continue that trend this year. There is talk of gimmicks from both sides of the aisle, some of which are designed to mask a sure raid of Social Security and Medicare.Social Security and Medicare must be taken off the table. The only way to do that is to make it illegal to raid those funds.Pressure must be kept on the Senate minority, which is blocking the Safe Deposit Box Act. President Clinton should pressure his party leaders in the Senate to find the six votes needed to pass the bill. Concerned representatives and senators must keep up the pressure as well.Since the Social Security Act was passed in 1935, Americans have paid into the system rightfully expecting to receive their fair share. Unless Congress acts to preserve it, future generations will lose their security.That's the reason I signed onto another piece of Social Security protection legislation, the Social Security Preservation and Debt Reduction Act.
This bill is a companion to the Safe Deposit Box Act and has been introduced in both houses of Congress by the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees. Simply put, the new bill would establish an enforceable limit on the federal debt, much of which is owed to the Social Security Trust Fund. The debt ceiling would fall as the debt is paid off, and funds that would have gone toward paying interest on the debt would flow into the Social Security Trust Fund.Obviously, there are times when the nation must go into debt, and this bill recognizes those extreme circumstances of war and national calamities. However, to raise the debt, representatives and senators would have to publicly vote to do so and justify their vote to their constituents.These are tough measures that can only be taken now, when the economy is strong and the nation is enjoying a surplus. Not to act now is akin to the man who won't fix his leaking roof because the sun is shining. We face worse consequences in the future if we are irresponsible today.As I have said many times: Social Security is a sacred contract with the American people. We are very close to achieving my longtime goal of providing the American people with what I call Truth in Budgeting, which is what the Safe Deposit Box Act would achieve. It is a bipartisan issue that affects virtually all Americans.Now is the time to protect Social Security and Medicare and pay down the debt, while the sun is shining.