Seniors Group Forms Traveling Truth Squad To Combat Social Security Scare Tactics

For Immediate Release:

March 14, 2002

Contact: Hugh Newton (703) 807-2070

Washington, D.C.–The 60 Plus Association, a national, non-partisan senior citizens organization, today announced formation of a traveling truth squad to counter election year Social Security scare tactics.

60 Plus President Jim Martin said he was actively enlisting experts from all fields; academia, economists, public policy groups, senior citizens, minorities, Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers and union members. The full text of Martin’s announcement follows: 60 Plus pledges to send traveling truth squad members, especially from the African-American and Hispanic-American communities (those hurt the most by the negative rate of return of the current system), into the battle in every Congressional district and every state in America to set the record straight. A prime example of these smear tactics included the Medi-Scare telephone campaign directed at Republican voters in the Jeb Bush for Governor race in 1996, resulting in the closest election loss in Florida Gubernatorial history.

A year later, Governor Lawton Chiles’ campaign, on the eve of issuance of a Senate subpoena, admitted it made the bogus calls without identifying that the calls were financed by the Governor’s committee. There are at least 50 or 60 Social Security experts, Democrats and Republicans alike, who 60 Plus can call on for this project. We can assign a state to one or more of them, sending in several experts if needed in key senior citizen states like California, where 60 Plus has 95,000 members, and Florida where 60 Plus has close to 40,000. Even little South Dakota will be on our radar screen in case seniors are misled by political candidates.One political party has ridden the twin horses of hypocrisy– Social Security and Medi-Scare– for over 30 years, bringing these scare tactics to a fine art form.

It’s time to stop this sucker punching of seniors. For any politician from either party to imply that Social Security or Medicare is going to be taken away is demagoguery of the worst sort and for 40 years I’ve resented these false allegations to scare seniors into the voting booth.

These are shameless attacks that I call the politics of fear and I’m sick and tired of it. Having come to Washington as a newspaper reporter in 1962, I’ve witnessed savage Social Security attacks falsely accusing Barry Goldwater of jeopardizing the system when in fact the Senator from Arizona was ahead of his time in recognizing that the pay as you go tax system was due to fail because lower birth rates meant fewer workers, thus less payroll taxes to finance seniors who were living longer and longer. A system that worked when seniors died at an average age of 65 no longer does so now that we’re living into our 80’s, 90’s and beyond. A look at my own family bears this out. My favorite senior, my mom is 85, while my stepfather is a hale and hearty 102 years young!

A 2% tax on $3,000 income when the system started in 1935 yielded $60 from 15 to 20 workers to support each retiree. But today, a tax of 12.4% on $84,900 of income produces a whopping $10, 527.60 annually, but still the system is going broke because of two factors: lower birth rates (only 3 workers to support each retiree) and seniors are living longer. The retirement of these baby boomers in just 10 more years is the handwriting on the wall that Goldwater worried about. Responsible reform minded Democrats and Republicans alike have coalesced to try and solve this financing problem and all have agreed, across the political spectrum, that a portion of this 12.4% tax should be invested by professional market managers in a conservative mix of stocks and bonds to increase the rate of return for retirees. That’s the wave of the future as evidenced by like-minded plans in a dozen different countries around the globe.

Retirees and those nearing retirement are safe and secure and do not have to leave the current system. They will receive their full benefits. But it’s time for America to move with these countries into the 21st century and it’s way past time for certain politicians to cease and desist from their demagogic attacks that scare seniors. The role of the traveling truth squad will be to set the record straight whenever these misleading attacks are made, such as the false message that Jeb Bush would take away Medicare, as if a Governor of a state could dictate a federal program such as Medicare.