On the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security law, President Obama pledged Saturday to protect it from some Republicans who he said want to privatize the retirement account system and “place bets with Social Security on Wall Street.”
That, the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address, would be a reckless move as the nation’s economy struggles to recover from a recession, noting that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security measure into law in the depths of the Depression.
“That agenda is wrong for seniors, it’s wrong for America, and I won’t let it happen,” Obama said of some GOP ideas to turn the system over to the private marketplace. “Not while I’m president.”
On the Republican side, Pat Toomey, a former congressman running as the Republican candidate for Senate from Pennsylvania, offered the GOP rebuttal, and, though not addressing Social Security, said that a series of Obama administration policies had been so “extreme” that “America is at a crossroads.”
He mentioned the taxpayer-funded bailouts of the nation’s two largest mortgage finance lenders and Detroit car companies as well as the economic stimulus bill that he said still has left more than 14.5 million Americans out of work. He also cited Obama’s healthcare overhaul package.
Though acknowledging that the bailouts had begun under the Republican administration of George W. Bush, Toomey added: “Now, where do all these bailouts, takeovers and spending sprees leave us? They leave us with a weak economy without job growth and with a mountain of debt for our kids.”
He said that Washington spending as a percentage of the nation’s economic output had grown by 25% “practically overnight.” And, he added, with a budget deficit this year alone of $1.5 trillion, the Obama administration is creating more debt than was accumulated in “the entire history of our country from George Washington all the way through 2008, combined.”
He called on the Democratic-run Congress to stop now and not spend the rest of the money from the bailout and stimulus programs. “There’s an old saying: When you’re in a hole, stop digging,” Toomey said.
Obama said he was concerned that some Republicans would like to see Social Security turned over to private hands to keep it solvent and help the fund grow, especially as more baby boomers begin cashing in. But the president warned that the markets are fickle and that the Social Security fund could be at risk during lean times such as in the current economic crisis.
“I’ll fight with everything I’ve got to stop those who would gamble your Social Security on Wall Street,” he said. “Because you shouldn’t be worried that a sudden downturn in the stock market will put all you’ve worked so hard for — all you’ve earned — at risk.
“You should have the peace of mind of knowing that after meeting your responsibilities and paying into the system all your lives, you’ll get the benefits you deserve.”