Social Security: Who Will Sign the Pledge?

By October 5, 2006General

As we noted below, there’s been a definite drum beat around Washington this week to put Social Security reform back on the Nation’s agenda.

However, while it was off the public screen, a serious non-partisan group called, “For Our Grandchildren” has been quietly making the rounds urging reform — or at least a conversation. To that end, they sent this letter to every Member of Congress, seeking “an end to the demagoguery” and an agreement “to candidly and honestly discuss Social Security’s challenges.” In the letter, they quote a USA Today piece by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calling for a bipartisan solution to Social Security. We should note that For Our Grandchildren is headed by former Democratic Representatives Tim Penny and Charlie Stenholm. This is no right-wing conspiracy.

Each letter came along with this pledge, entitled, “A Promise to Our Children and Grandchildren.” It commits the signer “to work toward a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for the long term by putting aside partisan politics and seeking common ground.”

Now who could be against that?

Glad you asked. Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Sander Levin (D-MI) sent around this letter in response to For Our Grandchildren’s olive branch appeal. It is a partisan screed, blasting the group as “pro-privatization,” and noting “The appearance of this pledge and its carefully-veiled language, shows that the privatizers haven’t given up.” Ick. What a way to wreck a perfectly good bipartisan buzz — before it even got started. Wonder what their solution is? How ’bout we scare the old people? Find a system that works, stick with it.

So call your Representative and Senators and ask them if they received the pledge. If not, fax them another copy, and ask them if they’re willing to sign it, thereby committing to work toward a bipartisan solution to Social Security’s long-term solvency.

If they’re not willing to sign a simple bi-partisan pledge, maybe you should make sure they have lots of time off after Election Day to think about it.

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Concerned Grandma says:

    I am very concerned about the future that we are creating for our children and grandchildren. Medicare and Social Security are in big trouble and I wish our leaders would wake up and take some responsibility for positive change. Yes it takes courage! Reforming Social Security is a reasonable place to start. I encourage our leaders to take action, now!

  • Feverishb says:

    By the way, there is an interesting article out now about Social Security’s terrible work incentives: It basically makes the point that Social Security offers terrible disincentives to continue working into your 60s.

    The author is absolutely right about that. Gene Steuerle of the Urban Institute, and John Laitner as well, have published research showing that there is effectively an enormous tax on continued work, and Social Security’s structure is part of the problem. Laitner actually found that an extra year of work only increases benefits by 0.04% — a terrible return.

    The reasons for this are various, but they have to do largely with the way the Social Security benefit system is structured.

    The author of this paper may go a little bit far. Few individuals actually bump against the maximum benefit cap — fewer than 0.5%. So that ceiling doesn’t play a huge role. Far more significant is the fact that most people get especially poor value (even relative to their earlier earnings) for additional taxes they pay into Social Security once they hit their 60s. The adjustments to the retirement benefit for delaying claims don’t account for the cost to the individual of paying more payroll taxes. And the system doesn’t count all of a worker’s earnings years, only the top 35, so a part-time job may not even show up in a senior’s contribution history for benefit purposes.

  • Naomi says:

    It is astonishing that there are ANY opponents to the “For Our Grandchildren” pledge. I hope that the Rangels & Levins of Congress are exposed for their failure to act on this important issue.

  • Jenn says:

    I can’t believe anyone actually thinks SS will be enough for retirement… at least not at the lifestyle I am accustomed to!

  • James Hamilton says:

    Wow… what a great discussion. The more I read, the more I’m convinced neither the Republicans nor the Democrats has a monopoly on being irresponsible. Both sides are guilty. However, the same folks we’re criticizing are the very same ones – give or take a few after November – that we’ll be looking to to address these concerns.

    Hold them all responsible. And let them know you expect results.

  • Christine says:

    Responsibility means “ability to respond.” Folks are missing the mark of maturity by refusing to communicate and dedicate thoughtful time toward generating solutions to this crisis.

  • susan Guthrie says:

    I am a democrat. I believe that a country has a responsibility to care for its’ elderly TO A DEGREE. That includes reasonable health care and social security compensation. I also believe that the more removed we become from understanding how to save and invest money for our retirement, the more helpless and dumb we become about taking care of ourselves and under-standing our personal economies. The great disease that plagues the U.S. today is the thought that we are victims of the “System”, which really is another name for “Us”. Social Security was a beautiful experiment when it was created. It’s time to mature and adapt it to contemporary America. If there is one way in which I am ashamed of my party it is the way in which over the past twenty years it has become reactionary, self-serving, unconscious, and stuck in old ideas that are no longer useful. The current social security system is one of those areas in which it has failed, and continues to fail. Shame on AARP and other lobbyists who refuse to progressively address and change this system that is failing so badly. It frightens me.

  • Dale P. Welsh says:

    As my Grandmother stated in the 1960’s, FDR was a socialist and his social security will be the starting point of destroying the family structure. Why?? The respondsibility for the elderly parents, by the children, has been passed to the government and the welfare state. It will be only time before other respondsibilities will be passed. Before she died at the age of 100, still with a sharp mind, she stated the socialist welfare programs, in place from the 1960’s, had done their deeds.

  • Adam says:

    Social Security is a very serious issue. For Our Grandchildren is taking the right steps and they should be supported.

  • Chaz Cirame says:

    “Blessed are the young for thettp://www.secureourfuture.orgy shall inherit the national debt.” -Herbert Hoover

    and now the Social Security mess.

  • Brian says:

    It absolutely boggles the mind that even Sweden, the bastion of the nanny state, can see fit to begin reforming their Social Security system to introduce individual accounts, yet the Democratic caucus will not even engage in a meaningful conversation. That speaks volumes about their absolute inability to put down the partisan blinder and do what is right for the next generation of America’s seniors.

  • Carolyn says:

    Congress spends the Social Security Surplus each year. That’s WRONG. Personal Retirement Accounts would stop that.

    I support For Our Grandchildren because they have an idea that creates ownership and personal wealth.

  • Lynne B. says:

    Great idea to kick off the bi-partisan effort in the form of a pledge! I remember a West Wing episode in which congressmen were asked to take a stand at looking at Social Security reform, and no one would do it…too frightening on the re-election scene. Maybe in “real life” members of Congress will show some courage and fortitude.

  • Shyamaa Shannon says:

    I am new to this issue and a woman of 32 years old who still feels retirement is a long way off.
    I do not have much hope in this current system that I will be taken care of in my old age. I really wish politicians would drop their party crap and distrust of each other long enough to sit with each other about the real reasons they are in station- to come up with viable solutions for the well being of the American citizens. I am not registered under any party, yet generally vote democrat and this plea sounds fair, concerned and for the good of us all.

  • Jim says:

    Come on Congress. Open up your red/blue eyes and get rid of the colors. SS is in trouble and needs some sensible fixes, esp. for the long term. It’s not only our kids and grandkids counting on you,…but us as well!

  • Tree Hugger says:

    Wow. I can hardly believe the hypocrisy of those who say they want to fix Social Security, but refuse to sit down in a non-partisan manner and talk. What’s the deal?

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for turning up the heat on the dems. Something needs to be done to fix social security.

    Individuals can encourage their member of Congress to sign the pledge here:

  • Scott says:

    Right on Pat. Politicians hoping to curry favor with voters this November should think twice about dipping into Social Security surpluses for grants to combat teenage “goth” culture or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (not to mention $725,000 to fund the “Please Touch Museum”; $1 million for alternative salmon products; $1 million for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative, etc., etc.)I signed the Pledge and so should anyone reading this at: