Monday, March 20, 2006

What Social Security Surplus?

You probably know that Social Security is in jeopardy. Presidents from Clinton forward have acknowledged that.
What you might not know is that there is a current surplus. However, it is largely imaginary.
President Clinton gives the impression he is committed to saving future Social Security surpluses and not using them to finance other spending or tax cuts. But his actual five-year budget does the opposite. Over the next five years for which the President has submitted an explicit budget he proposes to divert more than $30 billion of Social Security surpluses to finance a variety of other forms of government spending. His claim that this will be made up sometime after those five years is not backed by details. That's one reason why we favor a Social Security reform that would transfer some of these surpluses into individual investment accounts. Although using budget surpluses to build up such accounts would not buy back government debt explicitly, they would add directly to national saving just as they would if they remained in the Social Security trust fund. And by taking the funds away from the government and putting them into individual accounts, the government's temptation and the ability to spend those funds would be eliminated.
The current Social Security system allows Congress to spend the Social Security surplus on other government programs. The surplus now only consists of IOU’s stacked in a vault in West Virginia.
Senators Jim DeMint and Mike Crapo introduced an amendment to stop the raiding of Social Security. Unfortunately, that measure failed. It is not surprising that the Democrats voted against it. What is more surprising is that a number of Republicans did. The upset votes are:
You may recognize these names as having previously been called RINO (Republican in Name Only). Now you know why. And you may wonder about George Voinovich. He did not vote.

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