U.S. Likely to Dip Into Social Security, Medicare, Daschle Says

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08/05 15:48

U.S. Likely to Dip Into Social Security, Medicare, Daschle Says By Alex Canizares

Washington, Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- A shrinking federal budget surplus may force the government to dip into Medicare and Social Security funds to pay for President George W. Bush's proposed increases in education and defense spending, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said.

Bush needs to ``give us some guidance'' on how to avoid using Social Security and Medicare funds to meet other budget needs, Daschle said on CBS's ``Face the Nation.'' ``Find us a way to pay for it.''

The departments of Defense and Education got the biggest increases in the president's budget proposal. That plan is constrained by a slowing U.S. economy and the $1.3 trillion tax cut that Bush sought and Congress passed, Daschle said.

The most immediate impact may be a reduction in Bush's call for increasing defense spending by $17 billion, to $343.4 billion, in fiscal year 2002. One Bush priority that ``ought to be pared back'' is his $8 billion budget to continue development of a missile defense system next year, said Daschle, a Democrat from South Dakota.

The White House budget office has said federal government revenue has declined by ``2 or 3 percent'' because of the economic slowdown. The economy grew at a 0.7 percent annual rate in the second quarter, the weakest in eight years. Budget officials forecast a surplus this year of between $160 billion and $190 billion, down from an earlier forecast of $275 billion.

Of that, Bush wants to set aside $156 billion for Social Security and paying down the national debt.

Plenty of Room

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said that leaves ample room for protecting Medicare. He said on ABC's ``This Week'' program that the budget resolution adopted by Congress accounts for $300 billion for strengthening Medicare and providing a prescription drug benefit to recipients.

``All the money that is going into Medicare will still be going into Medicare,'' Thompson said.

Daschle said dipping into the retirement and elderly health care accounts may be an ``inevitability'' because of the tax cut Congress passed and Bush signed into law and the spending targets set by Congress.

``We haven't begun to look at what the costs (are) for additional defense spending, education, and other issues we've got to address this fall,'' he said. ``There are some very serious questions about fiscal discipline that have to be addressed when we get back in September.''

At the same time, he and other Democrats said there is little they can do to revisit income tax rates. ``We don't have the votes to change it,'' said Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, ``This Week.''

The debate will likely flare when the Congressional Budget Office announces its next economic forecast later this month.

An internal Republican memorandum discussing the likely outcome of the CBO report will show there is no available budget surplus outside of Social Security and Medicare, according to the news wire service Bureau of National Affairs.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 05, 2001


These political idiots sure have convenient memories. In 1981 Ronald Regan pushed through Congress a huge tax cut, much bigger than this one, and it raised -- not lowered, but raised -- government revenue from $500 billion a year to $1 trillion by the time he left office. This cut came at a time of a gigantic budget deficit. This is what you do, to bring more money into the Federal Treasury, you cut taxes, to spur the economy. Gee whiz, I get so sick and tired of these hack politicians always trying to demagogue this issue. Fiscal stimulus has absolutely nothing to do with the surplus, or raiding any funds to pay for such things as the non-existent Social Security Trust Fund. All this noise is nothing more than a feeble attempt to scare voters into a particular political point of view.

-- Wellesley (wellesley@freeport.net), August 06, 2001.

Raygun's tax cut also prompted the creation of about five trillion dollars in federal debt.

David Stockman, RR's budget chief, admitted after he left the government that the tax cut was designed to cut funds that would otherwise go for social programs. Meanwhile, trillions (not billions) were given to military programs for planning omnicide -- so much money that the Pentagon literally doesn't know where it all goes.

It was perverse to watch Bore and Gush competing last year to see who could spend more of our money on useless weapons, rather than on a sustainable civilization.

"A nation that continues every year to spend more money on military defense than on program of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." -- Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967

-- mark (mrobinowitz@igc.org), August 06, 2001.

What are they going to dip into? The Social Security Trust Fund is just a bunch of IOU's. The money has already long since been spent!

-- Jim Davis (JD1327@aol.con), August 06, 2001.

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