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So, who really opposes higher taxes?

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HUMAN EVENTS Asks Congress:Was Bush Right to Pledge No Payroll Tax Hike?

So, who really opposes higher taxes?

President Bush has said that a top goal of his second term will be reforming Social Security so it is financially sound over the long-term and allows younger workers to set aside part of their Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts On December 9, Bush also pledged: “We will not raise payroll taxes to solve this problem.”

HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Robert B. Bluey asked members of Congress last week if they agreed with the President’s pledge not to raise payroll taxes.

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As a leader of moderate Republicans, do you agree with President Bush’s assessment that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out to help pay for Social Security reform?

REP. MIKE CASTLE (R.-DEL.): First of all, I don’t rule in or out anything at this point. My own judgment is that this is an extremely complex problem, and I’m not 100% sure, or I’m not sure at all, that we should have any privatization in this area.

Do you favor personal retirement accounts?

CASTLE: I do not know the answer to that either. I’ve never embraced them one way or another, and I want to totally understand that. I think there’s some merit to it and there’s some problems with it.

Do you think other moderates share your views?

CASTLE: I don’t know. We haven’t had a lot of extensive discussions about it. Now, I will tell you that [Arizona Rep.] Jim Kolbe (R.) is one of the advocates for it and he’s a moderate. So the answer’s not 100% of the moderates oppose it, so it’s hard for me to judge. I think you ask the right question, though. It’s more likely in the moderate camp that you’ll find people may have opposition to this.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out to help fund Social Security reform?

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R.-LA.): I want to look at all the options and all the figures, but certainly, I’m not the least bit eager to do that.

Do you support personal retirement accounts?

VITTER: Yes, I do.

What’s the best way you think we should pay for them?

VITTER: Clearly we have to have a transition plan and we need to look at all the figures and what exactly it’s going to cost, but I do think we need to modernize the system with personal plans as part of that.

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On the question of Social Security reform, do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out?

SEN. TOM COBURN (R.-OKLA.): I don’t think there needs to be a payroll tax increase to solve the problem.

Do you support personal retirement accounts?

COBURN: Yes, I do. What we need to do is to move to a way where we can earn more, and there’s all sorts of ways to do that. I’m not going to commit one way or the other. And we need to change the index of inflation to one that’s appropriate for cost, which is a consumer price index instead of the wage index.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase needs to be ruled out when it comes to Social Security reform?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R.-VA.): I’m opposed to tax increases. That’s nice that the President feels that way. I did not come up here to raise taxes, and I don’t rightly care what anybody else thinks is a good idea: I made a promise to the people of Virginia that I was not coming up here to raise taxes.

Do you support personal retirement accounts?

ALLEN: I’m going to look at the details of it. I certainly think it’s worthwhile to explore and assess the situation with Social Security. I have some of my own ideas. I’m keeping my powder dry on saying what the details are.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out as a way to pay for Social Security reform?

SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D.-MONT.): I think nothing should be ruled out.

Do you support personal retirement accounts?

BAUCUS: They raise a lot questions about how much they’ll divert from the [Social Security] trust fund and how much return there will actually be on them. There are a lot of questions, and we’re going to have to look at the whole issue very, very carefully. The resolution’s going to have to be one of give-and-take and bipartisanship with no axes to grind to get it done.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out to help pay for Social Security reform?

SEN. THAD COCHRAN (R.-MISS.): I think we need to keep the commitment that we have under the law to beneficiaries of the Social Security program. I think he can count on the support of Congress in his efforts to modernize the program, to help protect the benefit structures so that seniors don’t have to worry about whether the checks are going to be there when they’re due. I don’t think you have to raise the taxes in order to meet that goal.

Do you support personal retirement accounts?

COCHRAN: I do, and I think that’s a good idea.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out as a way to pay for Social Security reform?

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R.-KAN.): We have more people paying Social Security taxes now than people paying income taxes. I share the President’s view. I think there are other means to achieve Social Security reform, to strengthen and preserve it, but I’m not for raising the payroll tax.

How about personal retirement accounts, are you in support of them?

ROBERTS: I think in concept that’s something that we really need to take a look at. I know that talking to my son and others his age, they don’t believe they’ll get any Social Security. He says, let me get a hold of part of what I contribute so I can at least get that. I think there’s a need to breach the gap, if you will, because I know most people my age care very much about the economic need of their children and their grandkids, as well as the benefits they receive from Social Security. So if we can do that–some form of privatization, that’s the key–it’s one of the answers.

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Do you agree with the President that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out in order to pay for Social Security reform?

SEN. CRAIG THOMAS (R.-WYO.): I’m not sure. I think clearly something has to do be done and we have to make some moves, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough facts yet to know how we’re going to do that. I think it’s possible that in the future… if they have to change [indexing] from wages to inflation, that’s a consideration. But I haven’t made the decision on it yet….

Are you in favor of personal retirement accounts?

THOMAS: I think so. I think we ought to be sure we ensure the people who are retired or close to retirement go on with the same program. But I think if we can work out a way to let younger people have an investment–we need to be encouraging people to build their own retirement program. Social Security is not a retirement program; it’s a supplement. I think this might help do that.

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Do you agree with President Bush that a payroll tax increase should be ruled out to help pay for Social Security reform?

SEN. MARK DAYTON (D.-MINN.): He doesn’t have a plan or proposal, yet he’s got these conditions. I mean, if he wants to open this whole subject up, I think we have to turn over all the cards face up on the table. Right now, the fund has a $180-billion annual surplus from the existing payroll taxes. There’s not a revenue problem now, and depending on how you compute the [Social Security] trust fund and its assets, it’s not a financial problem in 2018, as [Bush] cites. So if we’re going to be compelled to deal with this, we need to objectively and factually see what we need to do and how to accomplish that.

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