The lack of attention by candidates of both parties to the huge entitlements crisis facing this country has been, to say the least, troubling.
But Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with two Washington Post reporters the other day, put new spin on this. Clinton is now not merely avoiding addressing this difficult problem, but also rejects the premise that the problem even exists.
Speaking with the Post's Dan Balz and Ann Kornblut aboard her "Middle Class Express" bus in Iowa, Clinton announced that we have no Social Security problem.
"I do not believe it is in crisis ... I reject the conventional wisdom and the Republican talking points that Social Security is in crisis. I do not agree with that."
Balz expands on Clinton's remarks in his blog, quoting her as saying that "To me Social Security is not a front burner issue ... I don't want to get into negotiating over Social Security while I'm trying to do health care, change our energy policy, and move back to fiscal responsibility and get us out of Iraq."
Ironically, it was not Republicans, but her husband Bill, who declared the Social Security system in crisis as his lead message in his State of the Union address in 1999.
President Clinton said in that address to the nation, "...by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. And by 2032 the trust fund will be exhausted, and Social Security will be unable to pay out the full benefits older Americans have been promised."
The latest report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, issued earlier this year, confirms that the problem still looms large before us. This is no partisan document, but a report on the data cranked out by the actuaries at the Social Security Administration on the state of the system.
It concludes that the state of the Social Security system remains "problematic" and that "Social Security's current annual surpluses of tax income over expenditures will soon begin to decline and then turn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires."
In that State of the Union address back in 1999, President Clinton outlined his own plans for how to address the Social Security crisis.
Those plans never crystallized, however, because Clinton soon thereafter wound up with his hands full, and his attention diverted, as the result of a scandal concerning his activities with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.
Apparently Mrs. Clinton was paying as close attention to what her husband was saying about the state of the Social Security system as she was to his after hours extra curricular activities with this young intern in the Oval Office.
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