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Joseph Lieberman on Social Security

Democratic Jr Senator (CT), ran for V.P. with Gore, ran for president 2004


I looked at privatization but decided against it

LAMONT: I think it's so important that the Democrats stand up and present a constructive alternative to the Bush administration. I find that Sen. Lieberman too often is willing to undermine the Democrats, be it on issues like the war in Iraq, or on a variety of other issues, be it Social Security, be it affirmative action, be it vouchers. These are important issues that say a lot about what we stand for. We stand for the public good. We stand for public education. We stand for universal health care for every American, and when Democrats say that, that's when we start winning again.

LIEBERMAN: On Social Security privatization--I looked at it in the late 90s. I decided it was a bad idea. I opposed it in 2000. I voted for resolutions against it. On the day that Pres. Bush started his campaign to privatize Social Security in 2005, I was one of 41 Democratic senators to say explicitly that I think it's a bad idea, it would hurt Social Security. So why don't you stop spreading that kind of untruth?

Source: 2006 Connecticut Democratic Senate Primary debate Jul 6, 2006

Social Security Plus from Gore, cuts from Bush

Q: How will you protect Social Security?

LIEBERMAN: I pledge to the people that no one will lose benefits under our plan for Social Security as far forward as 2054. Social Security has created a floor under which seniors cannot fall. It is critically important to protect it. Al and I have committed to putting that Social Security surplus in a lockbox. Our opponents have an idea for privatizing Social Security that will jeopardize payments. It requires taking as much as a trillion dollars out of the Social Security fund. Independent analysts have said that would put the fund out of money in 2023, or, benefits will have to be cut by over 50 percent. Al Gore and I are going to guarantee Social Security and add to it the retirement savings plan that I mentioned earlier, which will help middle class families looking forward have not only Social Security but a superb extra retirement account as well. Social Security-plus from us, Social Security-minus from the Bush-Cheney ticket.

Source: Vice-Presidential debate Oct 5, 2000

OK to invest in private markets, a little

On Social Security, a central point of conflict between Gore and Bush, Lieberman has suggested that he could support allowing workers to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in the private markets. That is Bush’s position. But Lieberman has never been faced with a vote on the matter and never made explicit what kind of investments he would allow and in what circumstances.
Source: David E. Rosenbaum, NY Times, p. A19 Aug 8, 2000

Lieberman commends Gore’s National Retirement Savings Plan

Gore’s clear intention is to provide hard-working families an opportunity to boost their savings so they may rest easier in their retirement years, knowing they have worked hard to build real economic security. Gore rightly identifies the potential of the private sector to help us achieve a very public interest. Just as importantly, he makes clear that this is not an empty gesture of a handout today, but an empowerment tool for tomorrow. It is a tool that would benefit all of our economy.
Source: Statement on Gore’s savings & retirement plan Jun 20, 2000

Eliminate Earnings Test; don’t punish work

Lieberman favors elimination of the Social Security Earnings Test [via] legislation that would enable seniors to receive full social security benefits regardless of their earnings. “The current system provides a financial disincentive for millions of capable seniors to contribute their wisdom and experience to the American workforce, which is neither good for the individual or the national economy,” Lieberman said. “It simply runs contrary to our national values to punish hard work for a good wage.”
Source: Press release, “Earnings Test” Mar 8, 2000

Voted NO on establishing reserve funds & pre-funding for Social Security.

Voting YES would:
  1. require that the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund be used only to finance retirement income of future beneficiaries;
  2. ensure that there is no change to benefits for individuals born before January 1, 1951
  3. provide participants with the benefits of savings and investment while permitting the pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits; and
  4. ensure that the funds made available to finance such legislation do not exceed the amounts estimated to be actuarially available.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Perhaps the worst example of wasteful spending is when we take the taxes people pay for Social Security and, instead of saving them, we spend them on other things. Even worse than spending Social Security on other things is we do not count it as debt when we talk about the deficit every year. So using the Social Security money is actually a way to hide even more wasteful spending without counting it as debt. This Amendment would change that.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

This amendment has a fatal flaw. It leaves the door open for private Social Security accounts by providing participants with the option of "pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits."