Letters Let's focus on Social Security gap

To the editor:

Proponents of radical changes have made much of the high ground they allegedly occupy in the ongoing debate about the future of Social Security. Recent op-eds and letters to this publication have trumpeted the virtues of private personal accounts created out of existing worker contributions to Social Security, while claiming opponents of such accounts are bereft of a commitment to America's retirement future.

Social Security can currently pay 100 percent of all promised benefits until 2041. And even after that date, the system can still meet over 70 percent of its promised obligations. Now 70 percent of promised benefits would not be fair to today's retirees, and it certainly isn't fair for future retirees. And that's why the debate should focus on filling that future gap, not on fundamentally changing the social contract of Social Security. With Social Security you get a defined benefit that is inflation protected and it is yours until you die.

Now no one denies that everyone should invest in their retirement future. In fact, AARP believes that Social Security should be only one of four pillars essential to retirement security in the 21st century. The others are personal savings and pensions, continued earnings from work and health care security. But the question remains whether carving personal accounts out of Social Security is the wisest course to follow.

Creating personal accounts out of Social Security creates the illusion of savings while yielding little net gain for the average worker. First, diverting money currently flowing to the system only weakens the underlying Social Security program, hastening the day when we can't meet our existing obligations. Second, proponents of individual accounts fail to mention that one generation will have to pay twice to set up their new system � once to fund their accounts and again to help meet existing obligations to current and near-term retirees.

And since basic Social Security benefits must be cut to match the loss of revenue flowing into personal accounts, we can expect little net gain for any but the wealthiest and youngest workers.

Those favoring personal accounts make much of the long-term returns one might obtain from the stock market, claiming much of the loss in Social Security benefits will be more than offset by gains in investments. But tell that to the millions of current and near-term retirees who returned or stayed at work after suffering losses of up to 50 percent over the past three years. Or try to convince the one in six older Americans for whom Social Security is their only source of income that they can afford to roll the dice on their entire retirement nest egg.

There remains one thing in the Social Security debate we can all agree on � it's time to dial down the political rhetoric and have a real, honest discussion with America about the choices we face for our retirement future. That's why AARP is committed not to making political points or seeking electoral advantage over Social Security, but to moving a solution forward.

Rick Weiland

AARP South Dakota

state director

Sioux Falls

Reader wonders about Thune's comments

To the editor:

I saw John Thune speak at USD last week, and I just had a couple of follow up questions. After his speech, the university professors that were present gave him a hard time about the Bush tax cut which would undeniably favor the richest of the rich of the country. True to his convictions, Thune praised the proposed tax cut of half a trillion dollars arguing that it's a "shot in the arm" for our economy and that the "class warfare" argument is a sham because the lower class is just envious of the wealthy. I considered this and wondered how giving 60 percent of the taxpayers only 8 percent of the tax benefits can be construed as anything but calculated exclusion of the middle and lower class?

Thune also took another jab at Tom Daschle after the speech. He told the Yankton P&D that, "Daschle's statements were miscalculated, given what was going on ? especially when there were 250,000 soldiers waiting on the border." I guess Thune forgot how he openly bashed President Clinton after he deployed troops in Kosovo. He told the P&D back then (April 7, 1999) that, "I'm not sure it's one of those situations where we can justify putting our young people over there and having them killed in order to bring peace to an area which, by definition, will never be a peaceful area of the world." I just wanted to know how Thune could take the moral high ground on this one.


Justin Weiland


Vermillion Beautiful thanks Greeks' help

To the editor:

During this past Greek Week, the men and women from USD fraternities and sororities scheduled activities for fun, but also gave back to the community in service. We are grateful that Vermillion Beautiful was selected as one of the Greek Week community projects.

Greeks gave us invaluable help in preparing planting beds on Main Street, and starting new beds on Cherry Street. Their work means that now we're about ready to plant 5,000 flowers on May 17.

Thank you for doing a great job of hard work. We hope you can help us next spring!


Judy Clark, president

Vermillion Beautiful, Inc.

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