Originally Published: October 20, 2002 10 a.m.
WASHINGTON – The Democrats are getting desperate as Election Day looms, which means it's time for them to play the Social Security fear card.
Democratic candidates, in close races across the country, are running ads that accuse their Republican opponents of planning to "privatize" the Social Security system and dump all of its money into the stock market. The ads, of course, are aimed at scaring older voters into believing that if the GOP takes over the House and Senate, their financial future could depend on the ups and downs of Wall Street. And you know how the market's been doing lately.
The charges are a pack of lies.
In fact, it is the Democrats – not the Republicans or the Bush administration – who want to invest the Social Security Trust Fund in the stock market. And we've got their own words to prove it.
Al Gore recently delivered a scathing denunciation of President Bush's economic policies, saying, "Thank goodness that Bush did not succeed in persuading Congress to put the entire Social Security Trust Fund in the stock market just before it collapsed."
Gore's shameless demagoguery aside, the truth is that the president's executive order establishing the Social Security reform commission said just the opposite: "Government must not invest Social Security funds in the stock market."
Bush proposes simply to let workers voluntarily invest a small portion of their payroll taxes in preapproved, IRA-type stocks or bond funds over their working lives to build stronger retirement savings than they will have under the present system.
As these personal-investment accounts grow over 40 to 45 years of work, they gradually will offset the baby boomers' growing demands on the Social Security system, thus saving it from impending bankruptcy (expected in about 30 years). And, yes, the stock markets will grow substantially over time, as they always have over a century-and-a-half of investing.
The point is that, under Bush's plan, the only investments allowed would be those placed in personal, individual accounts. The government would not invest the trust fund in anything but safe, secure U.S. Treasury notes.
But the Clinton-Gore administration wanted to let the government invest part of Social Security's Trust Fund in the stock market. And Democratic leaders – including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle – supported the idea.
In fact, if you go back and reread what they said about Clinton's plan (a terrible idea that would lead to government ownership and regulation of the economy), they seem to have no problem with investing Social Security funds in the stock markets.
Listen to Tom Daschle at a news conference on July 24, 2001: "Well, we have always said there's a big difference between private accounts and institutional investing (in the stock market). The institutional investing that goes on right now with pension plans all over, especially at the state level, throughout the country, is something that is already accepted as a viable practice for long-term investment in trust funds."
Here's what Dick Gephardt said on Jan. 21, 1999: "We have funds (state pension funds invested in stocks) in California. We have state funds in New York. We have huge private and public funds that are being invested in the stock market and getting better returns than we get in Social Security. Why should Social Security recipients be disadvantaged by not getting ... higher returns out of the stock market. ... I mean, if we don't do that, then we've got to either ... lower benefits or raise taxes in order to solve the problem."
Takes your breath away, doesn't it? Bush could not have said it any better himself? Listen to New Jersey Sen. John Corzine (now the Democrats' Social Security hatchet man who regularly attacks Bush's plan) who supported the Democrats' scheme to put 15 percent of the trust fund's money into the stock market where he himself made a fortune before running for the Senate.
When New York newsman Gabe Pressman asked him isn't "putting a lot of the Social Security money into the stock market precarious, dangerous?" Corzine replied, "Well, I say, look at what every pension fund in America does, which has a diversified portfolio, some in stocks, some in bonds. ... To put all of your eggs in one basket, that would be foolish. But this is a proposal (to put) ... up to 15 percent of those savings -- a small portion of the Social Security Trust Fund. And it is invested over a long period of time." So the next time you hear Gore, Daschle, Gephardt, Corzine and other Democrats talk about how "risky" Bush's plan is, remember what they had to say about Clinton's scary plan to have federal bureaucrats invest the Social Security Trust Fund in the stock market.
Besides, what did Clinton know about investing? Wasn't he the guy who lost his shirt in a get-rich-quick scheme called Whitewater?
Copyright 2002, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.