Dirty little secrets

Posted: Mar 15, 2005 12:00 AM

Atlanta, GA, Mar. 15 (UPI) -- There are three dirty little secrets congressional Democrats don't want you to know about Social Security.

First, Democrats want President Bush's proposed personal retirement accounts off the negotiation table because Congress has already spent your money. That is because, in reality, there is no Social Security Trust Fund.

The Trust Fund is merely an accounting maneuver by which the government replaces your payroll taxes with IOUs to be redeemed at a later date.

The current system faces a fiscal crisis in the coming years because the government will not be able to redeem all the IOUs. There will be fewer younger workers paying into the system as the baby boomer generation begins to retire.

Congressional Democrats have long advocated placing Social Security payroll tax receipts in a lock box. Talk of trust funds and lock boxes is nothing more than the Left's usual deceptive and distorted rhetoric. What is ironic is that placing your payroll taxes in a lock box with your name on it -- where members of Congress cannot raid for pork barrel spending -- is in effect the backbone of Bush's plan. You get to keep and grow your own money, and it will be there when you retire.

The second dirty little secret is that personal retirement accounts do not really constitute privatization. Privatization means someone else owns your account. Bush's Social Security plan provides younger workers their own accounts that they control, not the government.

Members of Congress have their own personal retirement accounts, called the federal Thrift Savings Plan. The TSP has low administrative fees and members can choose from five different plans that vary in risk and rate of return. Contributions to the TSP are matched by taxpayers up to five percent, and are invested in mutual funds, not one particular stock. Bush's plan will not turn the public into a bunch of moonlighting day-traders, lining up to be fleeced by Wall Street insiders.

The third dirty little secret concerns the personal retirement add-on accounts some Democrats have hinted may bring them to the negotiation table. These add-on accounts would be available to workers on a voluntary basis, but do nothing to solve the solvency crisis or put workers in charge of their own money.

Unlike Bush's proposed investment accounts, add-on accounts would not help the lowest-income workers save for retirement and build wealth for their families. Low-income workers living paycheck-to-paycheck by definition do not have money left over to put into an extra account.

A majority of the U.S. public already has access to thousands of separate add-on accounts in the form of 401(k) and Roth IRA investments. The president's plan allows the poorest among us to join the investing class and reap the benefits of the market and compound interest, which Albert Einstein called "the most powerful force in the universe."

To compound their hypocrisy, Democrats are attempting to rewrite the definitions of bipartisan and solvency. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., stated, "If the president takes privatization off, if he makes a commitment to the future of Social Security, we're ready to sit down on a bipartisan basis and put everything on the table."

Bush and some Republicans have already brought ideas and plans to the table. Democrats have offered nothing but scare tactics, distortions, and to just say no to everything. If Democrats continue the business-as-usual approach they will never get to the table, and our grandchildren will suffer.

Personal retirement accounts as proposed by the president are the first step to fixing the solvency crisis and allowing more people access to economic freedom. The market has never once lost money in any 20-year period. Personal account plans have worked in Galveston County, Texas, and the country of Chile for well over 20 years, and have provided their beneficiaries rates of return hundreds of times higher than Social Security over the same period.

Congressional Democrats' opposition to allowing all U.S. workers access to economic freedom through the same investment options they currently enjoy is nothing short of immoral and dishonest. What is worse, they are seeking a short-term political victory by pitting grandparents versus their grandchildren and purposely trying to confuse both on the facts of the Social Security crisis and the benefits of investing.

Obviously, long-term solvency of the Social Security system is not the Democrats' true long-term goal. Solvency cannot be achieved by reducing benefits, increasing taxes, and increasing government spending. Instead, their hidden goal is increased control of your life, which is achieved by controlling an ever-growing share of your money.

If we do not change the Social Security structure now, in 15 years the problem will be bigger, the taxes needed to prop up the system will increase, benefits will decrease, and true solvency will be an impossible goal.

Maybe that's the other dirty little secret they don't want you to know.

Herman Cain is chief executive officer of T.H.E. New Voice, Inc. and New Voters Alliance, and host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show The Bottom Line with Herman Cain. He is past chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and past chairman and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

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