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In the Crossfire

The future of Social Security

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats say they want to save Social Security from the grip of Republicans, whom they accuse of depleting its trust fund and pursuing privatization, and are making their fight to protect Social Security a leading message in their attempt to recapture control of the House.

"Crossfire" host Tucker Carlson asked House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri to explain why there isn't Democratic-sponsored legislation to save Social Security for future generations.

TUCKER CARLSON: Now, Congressman, you are a big supporter of organized labor. And I have to say, I'm becoming one, thanks in part to people like Steve Rosenthal, who is the political director of the AFL/CIO.

As you know, he had a marvelous quote, a very true quote in The Washington Post. Here's what it was: "I'll buy dinner for anybody who can say what the Democrats stand for. So far, nobody's taken me up on it."

Steve Rosenthal is going hungry, and I can give you tons of examples of what I think he's talking about.

Let me just give you one: Democrats are going to run midterms, probably in 2004, on Social Security and how to fix it. Where is the Democratic-sponsored legislation that would overhaul, fix, save Social Security for a future generation?

RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, Tucker, if we had stuck with the economic program we were operating under during the Clinton administration, we would still have a surplus in place that we could use to pay down the back debt. And then with the interest we'd save, we could put that over into the Social Security.

CARLSON: Right. But I'm talking about right here and now. Where is the legislation?

GEPHARDT: Well, that was the program we were operating under.

CARLSON: So there is none?

GEPHARDT: No. Of course, we can get back to that with Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate. And hopefully a Democratic president...

CARLSON: So there's no plan on the table, is what you're saying? There's no legislation?

GEPHARDT: There's a plan that we had already implemented.

CARLSON: I would think there would be legislation, wouldn't you?

GEPHARDT: It was a plan we had implemented.

CARLSON: But you spend all your time talking about it, but there's no law.

GEPHARDT: It was the Bush economic program that blew the whole thing up. We were for tax cuts for the middle class, people that want tax cuts.

CARLSON: You're talking with the past, Congressman.




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