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Congresspersons Take Their Stands

On March 4, the Dallas newspaper ran a full page with North Texas Congresspersons' views on Social Security. All of the Republicans declared themselves in favor of privatizing; both Democrats were opposed to it. Republicans Kay Granger and Michael Burgess "declined to participate."

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said, "President Bush deserves enormous credit for forcing the debate now..." She pledged to completely preserving the benefits, and mentioned that "virtually every option is on the table." The only options she specifically mentioned were changing the index and extending the retirement age. Both options would fall hard on working people, and Hutchison mentioned none falling on the rich. She specified that she favored "voluntary personal accounts," which are the latest code words for privatization.

Senator John Cornyn repeated the tired lie that Social Security is practically bankrupt. Then he said that the decreasing ratio of active workers to retirees is "a recipe for trouble." He called "personal accounts" "one of the most promising options..."

Congressman Joe Barton spoke up for "personal accounts." Jeb Hensarling said that Social Security is about to disappear and recommended "voluntary investment." Congressman Sam Johnson indicated that his plan was different, but he recommended "personal retirement accounts." Congressman Pete Sessions, famous for wanting all government taxation to rely on regressive sales taxes, went over the ratio of active to retired workers and recommended a plan that "pools employee money and lends it to a top-rated financial institution" (a longer way of saying privatization). To his credit, Sessions adds to the GOP argument by claiming that his plan is similar to a successful one that was successful in the past in Galveston County. Congressman Ralph Hall, who used to be sort of a Democrat but is now a Republican, took the time to specifically oppose the idea of raising the $90,000 "cap" on wages subject to Social Security taxes. He suggested "adjusting" (lengthening) the retirement age, and said that he "liked" the idea of "personal accounts."

Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards of Waco said there is no immediate crisis in Social Security funding and that there are a number of options to improve it, but that privatizing is not one of them. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson got right to the point, "In regard to privatizing Social Security, be assured that I am opposed to any legislation that would do just that. Private accounts would put huge holes in the Social Security safety net and would tear apart one of America's most popular institutions by slashing monthly benefits by as much as 50 percent." Johnson also spent the weekend in Dallas speaking to live audiences on the topic of privatizing Social Security, which, she says, is the only issue and the only reason that President Bush is raising this particular hue and cry.