Hillary ignores Social Security issue

The lack of attention by candidates of both parties to the huge entitlements crisis facing this country has been, to say the least, troubling.

But Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with two Washington Post reporters the other day, put new spin on this. Clinton is now not merely avoiding addressing this difficult problem, but also rejects the premise that the problem even exists.

Speaking with the Post’s Dan Balz and Ann Kornblut aboard her “Middle Class Express” bus in Iowa, Clinton announced that we have no Social Security problem.

“I do not believe it is in crisis … I reject the conventional wisdom and the Republican talking points that Social Security is in crisis. I do not agree with that.”

Balz expands on Clinton’s remarks in his blog, quoting her as saying that “To me Social Security is not a front burner issue … I don’t want to get into negotiating over Social Security while I’m trying to do health care, change our energy policy, and move back to fiscal responsibility and get us out of Iraq.”

Ironically, it was not Republicans, but her husband Bill, who declared the Social Security system in crisis as his lead message in his State of the Union address in 1999.

President Clinton said in that address to the nation, “…by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. And by 2032 the trust fund will be exhausted, and Social Security will be unable to pay out the full benefits older Americans have been promised.”

The latest report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, issued earlier this year, confirms that the problem still looms large before us. This is no partisan document, but a report on the data cranked out by the actuaries at the Social Security Administration on the state of the system.

It concludes that the state of the Social Security system remains “problematic” and that “Social Security’s current annual surpluses of tax income over expenditures will soon begin to decline and then turn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires.”

In that State of the Union address back in 1999, President Clinton outlined his own plans for how to address the Social Security crisis.

Those plans never crystallized, however, because Clinton soon thereafter wound up with his hands full, and his attention diverted, as the result of a scandal concerning his activities with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.

Apparently Mrs. Clinton was paying as close attention to what her husband was saying about the state of the Social Security system as she was to his after hours extra curricular activities with this young intern in the Oval Office.

The fact is that the Social Security problem, together with Medicare, is enormous, and together they amount to fiscal quicksand upon which our financial future precariously sits.

Economists from the Wharton School of Business and from the Cato Institute recently estimated in the Financial Analysts Journal the massive scope of our national debt and deficit if we properly accounted for the liabilities in Social Security and Medicare. National debt amounts to $64 trillion, or five times our gross national product, and our real deficit is $2.5 trillion, or the size of the whole federal budget.

Anyone who follows Mrs. Clinton’s various proclamations and proposals over time will not be surprised that facts and truth are not her priority. The priority, of course, is saying whatever it takes, in her estimation, to get elected.

It makes sense that Clinton wants to push an issue as important as Social Security to the sidelines. The collapse of our entitlement programs testifies to the failure of government planning, and grabbing power and government planning define everything that she is about.

While the senator tells us that Social Security is not in crisis, she is proposing massive new government programs, including a hundred billion dollars plus in health care spending and $20 billion in a new government giveaway for retirement savings, that will sink us only into a deeper financial black hole.

Sadly, these burdens will disproportionately fall on the low -and middle -income families that Mrs. Clinton takes politically for granted. Thirty four percent of our Latino population and 32 percent of blacks are under 18, compared to 22 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Worse, Mrs. Clinton’s message to folks who need to hear that their ticket to prosperity is exercising personal responsibility in a free country is that without being dependent on government, their future is hopeless.

How the Democratic Party has changed since that January in 1961 when President John Kennedy made his inaugural appeal to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

A far cry from Mrs. Clinton’s “…fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

(Star Parker is author of “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do about It” and president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education, www.urbancure.org. Contact Parker at parker(at)urbancure.org)


  1. SEAL

    She is using the old tried and true method of getting votes. Give the poor and middle class something for nothing, freebies they don’t have to work for, become their care givers. This worked well for Johnson and his “Great Society” through welfare.

    Clinton is smart. She is using the two most pressing and imminent issues for the poor and middle class. Vote for me and I will see to it that government takes care of you. Free health care and retirement security. Unfortunately, the people will buy it and Obama and Edwards will lose support when they point out the fallacy of what she proposes.

    There is no such thing as something for nothing. All government free entitlement progams have turned out to be very expensive for the middle class. Notice she has not said she will take the tax break and entitlement program money back from the wealthy and the corporations that Bushrepugnants has given to them to pay for any of it.

    Her proposals have two major flaws. 70% of the smokers who will pay for the health care are in the poor and lower middle class, and matching government fund retirement accounts are predicated upon the ridiculous assumption that the poor and middle class can afford the retirement deposits.

  2. jzelensk

    Hillary is right. It is the federal government’s general fund, not the Social Security Trust Fund, that is in horrible shape. The SS Trust Fund has been loaning its massive and growing surpluses (check this out yourself) to the GF to finance government operations and to finance rounds of tax cuts for the rich. The assumptions that generate the 75-year actuarial projections were suddenly changed since the 1983 reforms, so that the optimistic, not the mid-range projections have best conformed to reality. Assumptions such as future economic productivity (1.6%/yr. vs. historical average of 2.2%), anemic incomes forever, a sudden collapse in the number of immigrant workers (with an aging US population – not likely!), a sudden and unprecedented lengthening in the average age of Americans, etc. In fact US average age at death has come to a screetching halt. The 75-year numbers are just too pessimistic, and this was done deliberately.

    Medicarre, and Medicid are indeed problematic, but not because it is the government, rather because health care costs in general are rising.

    Democrats and progressives need to get their heads straight about Social Security and stop swallowing the neocon/Republican talking points. Otherwise the latter will succeed in destroying the last remaining safety net program.

  3. pondering_it_all

    Anybody else notice the “old switcheroo” in the middle of this article?

    Ms. Parker first complains about Hillary Clinton’s statements regarding Social Security, but then begins to lump together both Social Security AND Medicare! Well guess what? The future Social Security “insolvency” can be fixed by very small adjustments such as increasing the income cap for the deduction. (Which would have ABSOLUTELY ZERO effect on the poor and middle class she is so worried about!)So what Senator Clinton said about there being no Social Security “crisis” was perfectly reasonable.

    The real problem will be in future Medicare funding, and on that issue Senator Clinton has a great deal to say. Her plans for universal health care coverage would not ignore the future Medicare shortfall. (And that $20 billion retirement proposal is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions we are pouring down the black hole that is Iraq.)

    Ms. Parker’s agenda is obvious: She doesn’t like ANY government program that offers a safety net for our old, our poor, our sick, or our disabled. So she writes disingenuous articles like this filled with half-truths, left-handed compliments, and false comparisons to manipulate her readers. Shame on her for writing it. Shame on CHB for publishing it on their web page. Well-reasoned conservative opinion pieces are valuable, but this article is crap.