Prompt action on restoring the long-term solvency of the Social Security system would be “prudent,” the Comptroller General of the U.S. told a packed room at the House Ways and Means Committee last week, in clearly staying away from the “crisis” language that is creating trouble for Republicans seeking a revamp of the system.
And, in his opening statement, panel chairman William Thomas, R-Calif., said, “I do want to remind members as we move forward that retirement security in an aging society does not depend on Social Security alone. Personal savings, pensions, health care, especially long term and chronic care, each play a central role in helping seniors meet their needs.
“The Presidents leadership, however, has given us a unique opportunity to assess government institutions that worked but will not work in the future. And it has given this committee an opportunity to examine a number of other issues that probably would not be able to be examined in the manner the chair hopes we examine them if the President had not gone out front on Social Security issues,” Thomas said.
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At the same time, senior Democrats on the committee were adamant that any hopes for bipartisanship will be elusive unless President Bush and Republican congressional leadership drop their demands for creating private accounts.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., ranking minority member, made clear to Thomas in his opening statement that, “private accounts cannot be on the table if you are looking for bipartisanship.”
“Private accounts do not address Social Securitys shortfall,” added Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., ranking minority member of the Social Security Subcommittee. “In fact, they actually make it significantly worse by diverting nearly $5 trillion from the Social Security trust fund over the first 20 years of private accounts.