Davis said radical changes unnecessary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Social Security will be OK, at least for a while, according to Rep. Artur Davis, who outlined why he opposed a plan from the White House to “save” it.

“Why make radical changes?” questioned Davis, who said Social Security would be solvent until 2042.

Davis held a forum at Selma’s Performing Arts Centre on the subject, which included a panel including representatives from the AARP and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

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The Rev. Lee Goodwin, of Selma, was on the panel, along with Dr. Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University Montgomery.

The panel presented ideas and opinions on the Social Security program, and how problems within the system could be addressed.

Davis said the panel was put together to educate area residents about the system and the problems he saw with Bush’s proposal.

Deravi said the plan presented by the President was not only flawed, but would endanger the system.

“With going to the ‘ownership society’ you’re still going to come up short,” Devari said, claiming the system would still need infusions of government money to remain solvent.

“You’re still going to need about $1 trillion to $4 trillion,” he said.

Devari presented several solutions, including lowering benefits, or raising the $90,000 ceiling.

Under current Social Security rules, people only pay social security taxes on the first $90,000 earned.

Proponents say that raising the cut-off point would more than cover the rising costs of Social Security.

Devari said that he’s seen studies that say if withholdings are increased by about 1.75 percent, then the problem would be solved “forever.”

For Davis, the entire argument revolved around Bush’s disregard for the welfare program, he said, referring to cuts in Medicaid and Perkins Grants for education.

Ron Scott, of the American Association of Retired Persons, agreed.

“I do think that what we’re seeing is an overall effort to reduce those safety nets,” he said. “I think that’s part of an overall philosophy to shrink government.”

The forum was opened to questions. Most of the audience members who asked questions agreed with Davis’ ideas.

One member said he didn’t see any reason to believe Bush, citing the administration’s failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Davis said that many people didn’t trust Bush.

“A lot of folks don’t have a lot of confidence in the folks that make predictions around the President,” Davis said.

One audience member, 21-year-old student, said Bush’s plan didn’t go far enough.

Renarda White said she didn’t see why Social Security was withheld by the government in the first place.

“Is it fair that we pay for them?” she challenged, referring to the elderly that currently receive Social Security.

As far as criticism against Bush’s plan, that the stock market was a gamble, White said she didn’t have much confidence in the system now.

“The current system is also a gamble,” she said.

White said she felt like the money would be better spent educating people.

“All of us pay for things we don’t benefit from,” Davis said, in response. “The system of helping to pay for stuff you don’t benefit from has made us a national community.”

Ultimately, Davis said he opposed Bush’s plan but didn’t see an immediate need to make any changes in Social Security.

He said that Social Security could be fixed “painlessly,” over about a 30 year period.

“Over a period of time, I think raising the retirement age is something we’ll have to look at,” he said.