On Borrowed Time

January 31, 2005

Howard Dean

By Gov. Howard Dean M.D.

All Americans understand that there need to be some changes to our Social Security system because 40 years from now, Social Security will go into deficit if we do nothing. And it is always better to correct problems early than wait until they get worse.

But there is no truth to the Bush administration’s claim that there is an imminent crisis in Social Security – the Social Security Trust Fund’s potential shortfall is $3.7 trillion over the next seventy-five years. By comparison, the Medicare Trust Fund shortfall will be $8.1 trillion, and the deficit caused by the president’s tax cuts will be $11.6 trillion. The crisis is not in Social Security – the crisis is the “borrow and spend” philosophy espoused by Republicans in Congress and the White House. Leadership which has no willingness or ability to think or act in our long-term interest is not leadership at all.

If America is to continue to be great and strong, we need leadership which is great and strong. We need to be told the truth about our financial problems and we need a plan of action motivated by facts, not scaremongering and propaganda.

The Republicans need to start thinking long term and make the following reforms.

•       First, stop borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund to finance tax cuts. These are not real tax cuts; these are tax postponements, which Americans will be forced to pay down the road – with interest.

•       Second, balance the Federal budget. There are many ways that this can be accomplished, but they all involve tough choices requiring some combination of revenue increases and program cuts. There seems to be no serious effort in Washington to make these tough choices and our country continues to careen toward fiscal catastrophe.

•       Third, reform the way elections are financed and run. The special interests that finance our candidates’ campaigns make it virtually impossible for our leaders to make good choices for the long term. Fearful of losing this source of campaign funding and their jobs, they keep making bad choices that benefit the special interest at the expense of all Americans. In the end, of course, these leaders lose both their jobs, and their self-respect. And our children’s debt burden continues to rise.

Sooner or later our children pay for this borrowing with a lower standard of living, an inability to pay for college and health care, and an inability to buy American products to create American job opportunities.

The debate over the future of Social Security – and every debate with this Administration – provides Democrats with an opportunity to drive home the fact that that we are the party of fiscal responsibility, economic responsibility, social responsibility, civic responsibility, personal responsibility, and moral responsibility. On issue after issue, Democrats are where the majority of the American people are. We just have to stand up for what we believe in.

If America is to continue to be great and strong, we need leadership which is great and strong. We need to be told the truth about our financial problems, followed by a plan of action based on facts, not propaganda.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates.
Email Howard Dean at howarddean@democracyforamerica.com

Copyright 2004 Howard Dean, All Rights Reserved.
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