(WASHINGTON) – The National Social Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees today charged President Bush with using his State of the Union address to scare the American public into privatizing Social Security.
Council President Witold Skwierczynski said, "It is absolutely reckless to manufacture an immediate crisis that plays upon the fears of the American public in an attempt to scare them into privatizing Social Security. The assertions the president made last night are just plain wrong."
Skwierczynski explained that projections for Social Security are just "what ifs" and should be regarded accordingly. Both the trustees of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) make projections on Social Security revenues and benefits payments for a 75-year period. SSA and CBO project three scenarios, two of which anticipate the U.S. economy will grow slower over the next 75 years than it has in the past. Skwierczynski pointed out, contrary to assertions by the president, these projections are by no means definite and should not be used to state what will happen to Social Security, but rather what might happen.
AFGE National President John Gage agreed with the president that steps could be taken to strengthen Social Security, but questioned the short list of options that President Bush declared as "on the table." "It seems we need a bigger table," said Gage. "I have faith that Americans could come together to develop a plan to strengthen Social Security that would not undo the program, risk the money hard-working Americans have paid into the system, or require heartless benefits cuts that would lower the quality of life enjoyed by retirees," Gage added.
Gage pointed out that the president did not mention the costs of implementing his plan to privatize Social Security – benefits cuts, tax increases, or enormous government borrowing.
In response to the president's comments on the Thrift Savings Program, a program federal employees have the option of enrolling in to invest their own money in the stock market, Skwierczynski noted, "Americans already have a similar program, it's called a 401(k) or IRA. We can strengthen these programs too, as long as they remain separate from Social Security."
The National Social Security Council, officially known as the National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals (Council 220), represents about 30,000 employees of the Social Security Administration who work in field offices and national calling centers.
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.