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Joseph Lieberman on Social Security

Democratic Jr Senator (CT, retiring 2012), 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

IDAs: 401(k)s for low-income individuals

Sen. Lieberman and I have been promoting Individual Development Accounts. IDAs act like a 401(k) program for low-income individuals. These programs are set up, many by faith-based organizations, with a mix of federal, state, and private dollars. These organizations help their low-income clients set up accounts at their local banks, provide training on how to manage these accounts, and then match individual contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $500 a year. These accounts earn tax-free interest and can be used to pay for education, to buy a home, or to start a business. In other words, these accounts launch low-income people into the asset accumulation game.

Our legislation will create approximately $2 billion in tax credits for financial institution and private investors that create IDAs. We have tried for years to create a federal IDA tax credit as part of a broader initiative called the Charity Aid Recovery Empowerment (CARE) Act, which would help charitable organizations help the poor.

Source: It Takes A Family, by Sen. Rick Santorum, p.151-152 , Apr 30, 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."

Make no mistake about it, this is a stalking-horse for Social Security. It looks good on the surface, but this is an amendment to privatize Social Security.
Reference: Bill S.Amdt.489 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-089 on Mar 22, 2007

Voted NO on using the Social Security Surplus to fund tax reductions.

Vote on a motion to table (or kill) the motion to recommit the bill to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee with instructions directing the committee to "correct the fact that the bill uses" Social Security surpluses for tax breaks.
Reference: Bill S.1429 ; vote number 1999-236 on Jul 30, 1999

Voted NO on Social Security Lockbox & limiting national debt.

This vote limited debate on the amendment offered by Sen. Abraham (R-MI) that would have created a Social Security "lockbox" and establish limits on the public debt. [A YES vote was for a lockbox]. This vote failed because 3/5 of the Senate did not vote.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)54; N)45; NV)1
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on Amdt #254 to S. 557; Bill S. 557 ; vote number 1999-90 on Apr 22, 1999

Voted NO on allowing Roth IRAs for retirees.

Senator Roth (R-DE) offered this amendment to the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act to allow people older than 70.5 with incomes over $100,000 to move funds from an Individual Retirement Account into a Roth IRA.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)56; N)42; NV)2
Reference: Roth Amdt #2339; Bill H.R. 2676 ; vote number 1998-120 on May 6, 1998

Voted NO on allowing personal retirement accounts.

Vote on an amendment expressing the sense of the Senate that the Finance Committee should consider legislation to use the federal budget surplus to establish personal retirement accounts as a supplement to Social Security.
Reference: Bill S.Con.Res.86 ; vote number 1998-56 on Apr 1, 1998

Voted NO on deducting Social Security payments on income taxes.

Vote on an amendment to establish an income tax deduction for Social Security taxes paid by employees and the self-employed.
Reference: Bill S Con Res 57 ; vote number 1996-140 on May 22, 1996

Create Retirement Savings Accounts.

Lieberman signed the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Balance America’s Commitments to the Young and the Old
An ever-growing share of the federal budget today consists of automatic transfers from working Americans to retirees. Moreover, the costs of the big entitlements for the elderly -- Social Security and Medicare -- are growing at rates that will eventually bankrupt them and that could leave little to pay for everything else government does. We can’t just spend our way out of the problem; we must find a way to contain future costs. The federal government already spends seven times as much on the elderly as it does on children. To allow that ratio to grow even more imbalanced would be grossly unfair to today’s workers and future generations. In addition, Social Security and Medicare need to be modernized to reflect conditions not envisioned when they were created in the 1930s and the 1960s. Social Security, for example, needs a stronger basic benefit to bolster its critical role in reducing poverty in old age. Medicare needs to offer retirees more choices and a modern benefit package that includes prescription drugs. Such changes, however, will only add to the cost of the programs unless they are accompanied by structural reforms that restrain their growth and limit their claim on the working families whose taxes support the programs.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC7 on Aug 1, 2000

Rated 100% by the ARA, indicating a pro-senior voting record.

Lieberman scores 100% by the ARA on senior issues

The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ARA website 03n-ARA on Dec 31, 2003

Other candidates on Social Security: Joseph Lieberman on other issues:
CT Gubernatorial:
Dan Malloy
CT Senatorial:
Richard Blumenthal

CT politicians

Retiring as of Jan. 2013:
AZ:Kyl(R)
CT:Lieberman(D)
HI:Akaka(D)
ND:Conrad(D)
NE:Nelson(D)
NM:Bingaman(D)
TX:Hutchison(R)
VA:Webb(D)
WI:Kohl(D)


Senate elections Nov. 2012:
AZ:Flake(R) vs.Hackbarth(R)
CA:Feinstein(D) vs.Emken(R) vs.Taitz(R)
CT:Bysiewicz(R) vs.Murphy(R) vs.Shays(R)
DE:Carper(D) vs.O`Donnell(R)
FL:Nelson(D) vs.LeMieux(R) vs.Connie Mack(R)
HI:Hirono(D) vs.Case(D)
IN:Lugar(R) vs.Mourdock(R) vs.Donnelly(D)
MA:Brown(R) vs.E.Warren(D)
MD:Cardin(D) vs.Wargotz(R) vs.Capps(R)
ME:Snowe(D) vs.D`Amboise(R)
MI:Stabenow(D) vs.Hekman(R) vs.Konetchy(R) vs.Hoekstra(R)
MN:Klobuchar(D) vs.Arwood(R) vs.Hernandez(R) vs.Severson(R)
MO:McCaskill(D) vs.Akin(R) vs.Steelman(R)
MS:Wicker(D)
MT:Tester(D) vs.Rehberg(R)
ND:Heitkamp(D) vs.Berg(R)

NE:Nelson(D) vs.Kerrey(D) vs.Flynn(R) vs.Stenberg(R) vs.Bruning(R)
NJ:Menendez(D) vs.Diakos(R) vs.Booker(D)
NM:Bingaman(D) vs.Balderas(D) vs.Sanchez(R) vs.Wilson(R) vs.Martin Heinrich(D)
NV:Heller(R) vs.Berkley(D)
NY:Gillibrand(D) vs.Noren(D) vs.Maragos(R)
OH:Brown(D) vs.Pryce(R) vs.Mandel(R) vs.Coughlin(R)
PA:Casey(D) vs.Scaringi(R)
RI:Whitehouse(D) vs.Hinckley(R)
TN:Corker(R)
TX:Cruz(R) vs.Leppert(R) vs.Jones(R)
UT:Hatch(R) vs.Ashdown(D) vs.Chaffetz(R)
VA:Kaine(D) vs.Allen(R) vs.Radtke(R) vs.Donner(R)
VT:Sanders(I)
WA:Cantwell(D) vs.Baumgartner(R)
WI:Schiess(R) vs.Neumann(R) vs.Thompson(R) vs.Kagen(D) vs.Baldwin(D) vs.Schiess(R)
WV:Manchin(D) vs.Raese(R)
WY:Barrasso(R)
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Page last updated: Feb 23, 2012