May 1, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Dominican Republic: Politics: Congress: Social Security: MSNBC: Chris Dodd discusses President's Social Security plan on "Meet the Press"

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Chris Dodd discusses President's Social Security plan on "Meet the Press"

Chris Dodd discusses President's Social Security plan on Meet the Press

Chris Dodd discusses President's Social Security plan on "Meet the Press"

Transcript for May 1

Guests: Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff; Sen. George Allen, R-Va.; Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
NBC News
Updated: 11:00 a.m. ET May 1, 2005


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, can there be a bipartisan solution to Social Security solvency with private personal accounts on the table? And two, could you accept a reduction in benefits for future retirees who make $90,000 by some 40 percent, who make $59,000 by some 30 percent?

SEN. DODD: Well, we--first of all, the problem here is I don't think--even if Democrats weren't involved, I don't think the president's plan would pass even Republican muster. There are already a variety of different proposals on the table made by Republican members of the Senate that are very different than what the president's suggesting. So the first issue, we've made it very clear, that private accounts are just off the table. They add $5 trillion to the deficit and leave up to the vagaries of the marketplace long-term stability and security for the retirees in this country is just a mistake in our view. If you did nothing at all, you'd leave these retirees in better shape than what the president is suggesting, in my view. There are ways to deal with solvency. Chuck Grassley has it exactly right. This is a solvency issue, and there are ways of solving the solvency issue, in my view, without having to get into benefit cuts. Simply if you would just take what the president suggested in 2001 for his tax cuts, which were not to be permanent but to expire within 10 years. If he would not make those permanent, those tax cuts will amount to about $11 trillion in revenue losses over the next 75 years. The solvency issue for the Social Security Trust Fund is around $3 trillion. Just reduce that tax cut by $3 trillion, keep $8 trillion if you want. That solves the solvency problem without cutting benefits at all. That's one way to do it, and we ought to be doing more.

MR. RUSSERT: But that's a tax increase.

SEN. DODD: Oh, no. He's made--they were temporary. These were temporary. The president said in 2001 these are temporary. They're going to terminate, expire in 10 years. Instead of making them permanent, just reduce the amount.

MR. RUSSERT: But if limiting the growth of Social Security is a cut, then ending a tax cut has to be a tax increase.

SEN. DODD: Well, it's simple...

MR. RUSSERT: There's a logic there.

SEN. DODD: Well, all right, but--do it that way. You asked me how to do it. Do I want to cut 50 percent of a middle-income person's retirement benefits or do I want to ask the top 1 percent of income earners to do with a little less of a tax cut on a permanent basis? That choice is easy, and I think most of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, would prefer that option.

MR. RUSSERT: Other than raising taxes, what else do you propose?

SEN. DODD: I disagree with your point of raising taxes. I don't call it raising taxes. That's one way of getting it. But the point is here. Remember this. There's some things you need to understand. One- third of all seniors today live exclusively on their Social Security check. Two-thirds of them live substantially on that Social Security check. Don't forget that. Remember prior to the enactment of Social Security and Medicare, the poorest segment of American population were the elderly. Seventy years ago, Franklin Roosevelt set up this program, which has enjoyed widespread support over the last seven decades, to provide that kind of security. What the president is suggesting is fundamentally altering and changing that to such a degree that people would lose as much as 40 or 50 percent of those benefits, not super-wealthy people but people in the middle. We're suggesting here that the way to do this is first do no harm. Get way from these private investment accounts as part of Social Security. Have it outside the Social Security system. Encourage people to save long-term savings, to contribute to Social Security so they'll have those kind of security they need. And then fix the solvency issue, which we can do without having to take--there are a number of suggestions. One is to increase the amount of taxable income from $90,000, such as Lindsey Graham is suggesting, a Republican is suggesting.

MR. RUSSERT: Lift the cap. How about the eligibility age? Look at that?

SEN. DODD: That might be looked at down the road as well, Tim. I'm not suggesting you do that now at all. That could be later on you want to do that. The problem is how do you solve the problem of 2042, that 20 percent, to make that Trust Fund solvent? There are all sorts of ways of doing that other than what the Republicans and the president are suggesting. And I don't think this will pass. I think Republicans will be against it.

MR. RUSSERT: But the fact is there are 40 million retirees, there's soon to be 80 million. Life expectancy has gone from gone from 65 to 78, 79. There used to be 15 workers for retirees, soon to be two. We have to do something. You agree?

SEN. DODD: I don't disagree down the road we do. But it's not the immediate crisis. Talk about Medicare. Talk about health care. Talk about issues that we do need to address immediately today. Why isn't that on the table for the kind of discussion we ought to be having?

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