[Below is a partial transcript from Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on Monday, February 7]
CAVUTO: Well, kids are not the only ones who say the darndest things. Wait until you hear what Art Linkletter has to say to the President about Social Security and his fellow senior citizens, after this.
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CAVUTO: All right, so you think seniors think the President’s Social Security plan stinks? You might think again. One senior says it’s a grand idea, and this just ain’t (sic) any senior. This is Art Linkletter, who used to devote a show to kids who said the darndest things and now finds many of his generation are doing the same. Art Linkletter, joining us out of Los Angeles.
Art, great to have you. Thanks for coming.
Mr. ART LINKLETTER (National Chairman for United Seniors Association): Thank you, Neil. I enjoy you, by the way, on Saturday mornings with that gang of shouters.
CAVUTO: They do shout a lot. I apologize.
Mr. LINKLETTER: They do.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, you kind of drew a distinction between the AARP and a lot of other seniors in this country who you say think it is time to look at Social Security. Could you explain that?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Very much so. AARP is probably the largest liberal lobbying group in Washington, with some 33 million people, and my group, the USA Next, are a little smaller. And we’re very conservative. I also happen to be a guy who has lived for 93 years, and I have seen all of this happen. I saw it when it was happening as the beginning of Social Security many, many, many years ago, and it was a great idea, I thought. But who could have guessed that there’d be this many changes in the last 40 years?
For instance, when I was born in 1912, I could expect to live to be 47. Today’s child can expect to live to be 77. So what a difference in figures that makes if you’re going to have a payoff like an insurance company. And many other changes, of course.
CAVUTO: You know, Art, many seniors–many of whom e-mailed me when I mentioned on the show last week that Social Security is broken, does need fixing–they quibble with that. But they also said, especially the 55 and over crowd, that they’re not whining, they’re just trying to push for what they think is rightfully theirs. What do you make of that?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Well, I think that the gov–the President has already assured them of what is theirs will be theirs under any new plan. They don’t have to go for any adjustments or changes under the plan that the Republicans are putting forward. They just are saying those who are coming along–that’s why we call our group now not the USA, but USA Next.
And who are the next? They’re our grandchildren. They’re the baby boomers that are coming along right now with 76 million. And the ones who are in it don’t have to make a move. They’re perfectly safe. Of course, seven out of 10 of the people who are in the 50 to 60-year group and earlier, in a recent poll that we took, were not so sure that there would be a Social Security.
CAVUTO: That’s right. That’s right.
Mr. LINKLETTER: There’s no Social Security trust fund, you know that?
CAVUTO: That’s right.
Mr. LINKLETTER: They’re only IOUs. And they have only the guarantee of the government, which is fine except how is the government going to get it? They’re not in business. They can tax us. They can lower the benefits. They can advance the age at which you start getting and picking it up. So we have to do something to give people an opportunity to get more than 2 percent–2 percent or less on the money they’re giving in each year. And you know, if this were a private company instead of a government, they’d all be arrested?
CAVUTO: Art, let me ask you, you said you remembered when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came up with this, I guess about 60 years or so ago?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Yes.
CAVUTO: Do you think he ever envisioned that it would be a stand-alone requirement program for people? That it would be…
Mr. LINKLETTER: No.
CAVUTO: ….your sole means of support?
Mr. LINKLETTER: No. No, all the talk in those early days was that this was kind of a safety raft to–to help people…
Mr. LINKLETTER: …whose pensions or whose plans didn’t work out. Now, we have millions living on Social Security, and considering what’s happened with inflation through all of those years, it’s a very difficult thing to do. And so, I have been a national spokesman and chairman of the USA United Seniors Association. I travel all over the country lecturing on the subject of how to make the best of the rest of your life. One of the best ways is to bet on this country, which means handling your own money, not having somebody else have it. And this–
CAVUTO: But, you know, Art, a lot of people listening to you and watching you, they’re all big fans. But they say, well, ‘Who is Art Linkletter–a guy rich many, many times over–to lecture anyone about a program that I vitally need to survive day by day?’
Mr. LINKLETTER: Well, it’s important to me because I have 14 great grandchildren and nine grandchildren, and I have been doing for the last 30 years enough things to help people who are hurting to have been given the President’s National Humanities Award three or four months ago. I made my money. I have my money. I’ll not tell you, Neil, where it’s hidden. But I have it scattered.
CAVUTO: Man, I’d love to know that. This would be a news alert, Art.
Mr. LINKLETTER: Ever since my daughter’s death, frankly, my life has changed. As a matter of fact, when people sometimes say to me, ‘Didn’t you used to be Art Linkletter?’ I say to them, ‘No, I–I’m a different Art Linkletter,’ because her death of a drug overdose and a problem with LSD sent me out into the world of caring and helpless and hurting people. And I have been all over the world for many organizations. I’m–I’m a national president of the Center on Aging that UCLA and Alzheimer Research Foundation, and so on and so forth. So I have serious thoughts, and I’m in many businesses, on boards of directors.
CAVUTO: Well, I know that in the case of your daughter. I mean, you were not hiding that from anyone.
Mr. LINKLETTER: Not at all.
CAVUTO: You used it as sort of a cause to remind people, don’t forget. Look at the signs of people who might be in trouble.
Mr. LINKLETTER: Yeah.
CAVUTO: But I guess–
Mr. LINKLETTER: I’m not just a guy that asks kids questions.
CAVUTO: Right, right. But let me ask you, Arthur, you know, there is this idea after the election that we’re still a nation of red and blue states. I know that you had joked, I think, at some affair that you were at with Sam Donaldson, and you wondered whether he had turned conservative. You had your doubts.
Mr. LINKLETTER: Yeah.
CAVUTO: But what do you make of that split and that that’s going to hurt the President’s chances to fix Social Security; it’s going to hurt the President’s chances to get his budget through, that there’s so much acrimony on both sides that this is it?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Yes, but there’s so much going for what the President has to say. Don’t just look back a few years when a man named President Clinton–remember him?
Mr. LINKLETTER: He said that he thought there was a definite crisis in the Social Security affairs.
CAVUTO: Al Gore said the same.
Mr. LINKLETTER: And we say the same thing. A crisis, you know, can happen for something that’s way off. If your doctor was to tell you tomorrow, Neil, that the colonoscopy that you just had revealed a small cancer which was going to kill you in 25 years, I’ll bet you’d consider yourself in crisis right now, wouldn’t you?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Well, that’s what’s happening with them on soc–on the House–on the whole security scheme. In–all of the money has been spent. We have IOUs, of course. The government can pay those back with taxes or cutting down the mountain of money they’re going to pay people or lowering the number of years that raise–raising the number of years before they get it.
So I feel that there’s a definite reason for the future. The word “next,” which is a part of our title, USA Next…
CAVUTO: All right.
Mr. LINKLETTER: …the next are the ones that are to be thought of seriously, and there’s seven out of 10 Americans right now in a recent national poll we conducted who are not at all sure that there’s going to be any Social Security.
CAVUTO: That’s right. Art, listen, thank you. By the way, do you believe everyone who says that they were a guest, a kid on your show, on “Kids Say the Darndest Things?” Because if that were true, there would be millions of them who were, right?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Well, I had 27,000 kids. When I’m traveling, as I do 200,000 miles a year, it’s not unusual for me to have a gray-haired old man on a cane come up and say, ‘I was on your show when I was four.’
CAVUTO: There you go. Well, I was on, Art. You maybe missed me?
Mr. LINKLETTER: Were you?
CAVUTO: Yeah, I was one Italian kid; you couldn’t miss me. But listen, Art, thank you very much. Good having you.
Mr. LINKLETTER: Thank you.