Blumenauer wary of Social Security plan

Rep. Earl Blumenauer expressed his disapproval of President George W. Bush’s social security plan at a forum at Portland State Wednesday night.

Blumenauer, a Democrat, has expressed disapproval in the past of Bush’s plan to privatize social security by allowing younger citizens save part of their wages in personal accounts. He says the plan will likely cause more problems than it will fix, a concern he repeated at the forum, which had over a hundred people in attendance.

Since Bush announced the plan, the privatization of social security has been a subject of hot debate between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats argue that the plan is too expensive, will only further deplete the existing system, and will put low-income citizens at a disadvantage. Republicans say that the present social security system is already inadequate and alternatives must be sought.

Blumenauer began with a presentation that outlined how the social security beneficiaries would suffer under Bush’s plan.

"I have deep reservations about this proposal for three reasons," Blumanauer said. First, he said, younger workers would be responsible for paying off trillions of dollars in the debt that would result from the implementation of the new program. Fifty-year-old workers would experience a 10 percent cut in benefits, and for already retired citizens, benefit reductions would begin in 2009.

The social security surplus, he said, which is currently at 1.7 trillion, will accumulate to 6.6 trillion by the year 2027 and will run out by 2052.

"If we go to private accounts," Blumenauer said, "it depletes the surplus faster." Under the new system, he said, surplus social security dollars will peak ten years sooner, in 2012, and exhaust 21 years sooner, in 2031.

"It is not uncommon for the social security trust fund to run down," he said, noting that adjustments to social security have been made seven times in the past. The most recent adjustments were made under the Reagan administration in 1983, when the social security tax was raised, benefits were cut and the retirement age was set to rise from 65 to 67 over a number of years.

"We’re also finding out that no, the [funds to save in private accounts] are not just given to you," Blumenauer said. He explained that the money that is to be placed in private accounts would come from a decrease in the social security payments young workers are expected to pay.

According to Blumenauer’s web site, he has received over 7,000 e-mails from his constituency, where over 80 percent were in opposition of Bush’s social security plan. The forum at Portland State is the second of four community meetings that Blumenauer will hold to discuss social security issues. The congressman represents Oregon’s third congressional district, encompassing east Portland and part of Clackamas County,