January 11, 1999
Protecting integrity of Social Security
Legislation protects fund from political abuse
There has been much rhetoric in recent months about "saving Social Security"; empty rhetoric. Politicians have taken up those three words as a mantra, hoping a constant repetition of those words will draw America's attention from the corrupt use of system funds, which continue to be abused by Washington.
Almost immediately after being sworn in as a Member of the 106th Congress on January 6, 1999, I introduced the Social Security Preservation Act, legislation to provide real protection of the trust fund. This legislation is identical to a bill 94 other Members and I cosponsored during the last Congress.
Regardless of what one thinks of the public policy that gives us Social Security, there is no denying that the funds of the program have been mismanaged and abused by the government. At every paycheck, Americans see a portion of their pay reduced by taxes taken specifically for the Social Security Trust Fund. The understanding, of course, is that the taxes are held in trust for that worker's retirement years. And because every American is issued a "Social Security" account number, the perception is further bolstered that the taxes are held in reserve for that specific person in an individual account.
This was intended to be more than a matter of perception. The law enacting the Social Security system and trust fund envisioned as much.
Reality, however, is much different.
The Social Security Trust Fund has for decades become a slush fund for the big-government programs of Congress and the President. In fact, close to a half-a-trillion dollars have been taken from the trust fund over the year.
In recent years, President Clinton and Congress have claimed to produce a balanced budget. This balancing act has only come as a result of numerous accounting shenanigans, including taking money out of the Social Security Trust Fund.
The trust fund has little actual money in it; it instead holds IOUs from the federal government, promising to eventually -- someday, maybe -- pay back the fund.
It must be a top priority for this new Congress to restore the integrity of the Social Security trust system. The Social Security Preservation Act will do this by making it illegal for the government to use the trust funds for any purpose except administering the Social Security system.
Restoring the integrity of the trust system is of critical importance. Billions of dollars are being diverted from their intended purposes, yet many in Washington chant the "save Social Security" mantra while taking more and more out of the fund. So when we hear that Congress might change the Social Security retirement age, or increase the Social Security tax, or we worry whether senior citizens' Social Security checks will be secure, remember it is the federal government that is robbing our trust funds to pay for big-spending habits.
It's time for political rhetoric to turn into realist policy. Quick passage of the Social Security Preservation Act must be a top priority of the new Congress.