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GOP leaders pledge to lock away Social Security trust fund

By Jonathan Karl/CNN

March 10, 1999
Web posted at: 6:28 p.m. EST (2328 GMT)

WASHINGTON (March 10) -- Responding to Democratic charges that GOP tax cuts would squander the Social Security surplus, Republican leaders unveiled a symbolic safety deposit box Wednesday.

"We are committed to locking away every penny of the Social Security trust fund surpluses for our nation's elderly," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Mississippi) pledged.

Social Security

Republicans say they will dedicate $1.8 trillion in surpluses over the next 10 years for Social Security and still have money left for tax cuts.

"Finally, we're going to have the largest tax increase we've seen -- or tax cut that we've seen," House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio) said. He immediately realized his mistake and placed his hand over his mouth.

For his gaffe, tax-cut advocate Kasich added his own dollar to the lock box. But the safe is symbolic. In essence, Republicans are vowing to use the Social Security surplus to pay down the debt. The only money in that safe will be a government "IOU" and Kasich's dollar.

"We do have a real dollar in there, so when we open this safe there'll be something in there," Kasich said.

President Bill Clinton also says he favors using the surplus to pay down the debt. Reducing the debt would make it easier for the government to borrow money when the program starts losing money, 14 years from now. But it doesn't solve the program's long-term problems.

"It's nice to see them racing to embrace the president's notion of reserving our surpluses for Social Security," Gene Sperling, a White House economic advisor, says. "The fact is, though, that they still haven't shown how they would extend the life of Social Security a single day."

Republicans acknowledge their safety deposit box does not reform the program, but they say they are waiting for the White House to present a comprehensive reform proposal.

Publicly, Republican leaders say they are optimistic about getting Social Security reform this year. But privately they say it will be almost impossible to accomplish until after the year 2000 presidential election.


RELATED STORIES

Clinton stumps for Social Security bailout plan (2-25-99)

Budget Office: Focus on economy to save Social Security (2-24-99)

Federal campaign enlists seniors as Medicare 'fraud busters' (2-24-99)

In the shadow of impeachment, budget surplus debate looms (1-18-99)

Budget surpluses expected to grow more than projected (1-16-99)


RELATED SITES

Senate Budget Committee Web site

White House Web site


MESSAGE BOARD

Social security reform

Legislative agenda



MORE STORIES:

Wednesday, March 10, 1999

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