The Senate made history today. For the first time since Social Security was enacted, senators went on record with whether they believed that Social Security funds should be reserved for Social Security.
Amazingly, 53 senators voted to continue to raid the Social Security fund. As Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) put it, “Fifty-three senators turned their backs on America’s seniors. There is simply no way to save Social Security if we don’t have the courage stop using the surplus as a secret slush fund.” DeMint co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Mike Crapo (R.-Idaho).
Since 1985 Congress has taken more than $1.7 trillion from Social Security; that’s the entire surplus. This harms not only America’s seniors, who are relying on this money for their retirement, but also young Americans who will be working to pay off Congress’ trillion-dollar loan to itself.
The DeMint-Crapo bill would have mandated that the Social Security surpluses be spent only on future benefits. It would have guaranteed that Americans born before Jan. 1, 1950, would not see any benefit changes in Social Security. Lastly, it would have provided young Americans ownership, but not a personal account, of a portion of their benefits. Put simply, the DeMint-Crapo bill would have put the security back in Social Security.
A vote against the DeMint-Crapo bill today was a vote to mortgage the future of millions of young Americans. Sadly, eight Republicans, from the so-called party of fiscal responsibility, voted with the Democrats and against the bill. Sen. George Voinovich (R.-Ohio) did not even bother to vote.
Although the bill ultimately failed, there is a silver lining. Reformers are only four votes shy of ending the raid. Forty-six senators went on record and stood against the status quo. Moderate senators like Mike DeWine (R.-Ohio), who is up for a challenging re-election, stood up for accountability and fiscal responsibility. These senators willing to vote their conscience are exactly the kind of leaders that Congress will need if it will ever address the fundamental problems of Social Security. The senators voting “aye” earned their sea-legs, and learned that voting to do the right thing gains the respect of the American people.
There is a political storm brewing, but it will strike hardest at those that eagerly do nothing. Americans are able to recognize a serious problem with challenging solutions. They just ask their leaders to make prudent, fair and responsible decisions. Continuing to fund pork projects at the cost of Americans retirement security is none of the above.
Luckily reformers now know whom they can depend on to do the right thing. More importantly, reformers know that Senators Conrad Burns (Mont.), Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), Susan Collins (Maine), Pete Domenici (N.M.), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Jim Talent (Mo.) are unwilling to put the interests of the American people before their own. The electorate will not tolerate their future being bought and sold on the floor of Congress forever.