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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2005

Social Security not in crisis, Kaptur tells Sylvania meeting

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Congressman Marcy Kaptur told a town hall meeting in Sylvania last night that "Social Security is not in crisis" and that Washington should go slow to make changes that could affect the national retirement program for decades to come.

"Social Security is a guaranteed benefit, not a gamble," the Toledo Democrat told 100 people, all but a few retired, during the gathering at the Sylvania Senior Center at Tam-o-Shanter in Sylvania.

She said she does not favor President Bush's proposal to divert some Social Security tax receipts from younger workers into personal accounts.

She emphasized that the President has not yet formulated a specific proposal for reform of the program, but she said she does not favor investing those proceeds in the stock market because the risk is too great that money would be lost.

President Bush has called for reform of the retirement system, pointing to long-term problems in its solvency. He has said he is open to ideas of how it should be reformed but has emphasized his fondness for those private savings accounts. Diverting some money from younger workers could give that money a chance to earn greater interest than if it sat in government coffers, he has said.

Congress will debate specific reform proposals later this year.

In the meantime, Republican and Democratic congressmen are criss-crossing their districts during recesses to talk about the issue. President Bush also is on the road as part of a two-month campaign to raise public awareness of the issue.

The personal accounts are at the heart of the reform controversy. Democrats uniformly dislike them, while Republicans are split over their merits.

Miss Kaptur said that a major problem with the accounts is that, because they would divert money away from the retirement system, the government would have to add money to Social Security to make up for that diversion. That, she told the Sylvania seniors, would increase the federal deficit dramatically.

The Kaptur gathering occurred just hours after Social Security trustees estimated that Social Security would go broke in 2041, one year earlier than in earlier projections.

Trustees also said that Medicare, the health-care program for the elderly and the disabled, faces insolvency much sooner - in 2020.

Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said that it is important to set aside partisan differences to solve the programs' shortcomings.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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