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Larson Criticizes Bush Plan as Political Gimmick
Larson charged that the Bush plan is motivated by political gamesmanship and ideological zeal, and not by a genuine desire to strengthen Social Security. In fact, Larson said, exposing Social Security funds to the risk of private investment would significantly weaken the program.
"Why would we want to take a program that was put there as a guarantee and introduce an element of risk to it?" Larson asked.
The University of Hartford event was the third forum that Larson has held this week on the Social Security issue. The other forums took place at Trinity College and at Manchester Community College.
Larson serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over any Social Security reform legislation that is proposed.
After outlining his reasons for opposing Social Security privatization, Larson opened the forum up to questions and comments from the audience, which included a number of students as well as faculty members and community residents.
Audrey Root, a junior, echoed some of her fellow students when she said that she has not seen Democrats offer any alternatives to the Bush proposal. Several audience members said there is a perception that Democrats are just criticizing, without putting forth solutions.
"I'm not for privatization at all," Root said. "But it's frustrating, because there's really no other plan out there for me to support."
The Democrats' plan, Larson said, is to find ways to preserve the current Social Security system, by having bipartisan discussions on such options as reducing benefits and lifting income caps that limit the Social Security taxes paid by wealthy individuals. Larson contended that the Social Security system is not in crisis, and that with some relatively minor adjustments, it can be made solvent far into the future.
But, he said, "There's no appetite to sit down and solve this problem on a bipartisan basis."
Larson said that Social Security was never intended to be a retirement plan – rather, it was designed as a safety net to protect people from falling into dire financial circumstances. Turning it into a network of private investment accounts would create an ideological shift, from a nation that collectively looks out for its citizens to one in which "the focus is on 'me' rather than 'we,' " Larson said.