October 12, 2006
Questions for Darcy Burner on Social Security

Darcy Burner seemed to develop a newfound interest for the topic of Social Security during yesterday's online Q&A for the Seattle Times.

She was asked directly about the issue and said:

Darcy, how do you think we can best protect Social Security and help bring back an economically-viable middle class? What policies need to change? -- Geni Hawkins, Auburn

D.B.: Social Security is a promise made to hard-working Americans that they will have some basic level of support in their retirement. We need to keep that promise. I will push for the modest reforms that will ensure the continued solvency of Social Security for decades to come, and I will fight against President Bush's efforts to destroy it. (The Republicans have made it clear that Social Security privatization is their number one priority if they retain control of the Congress in 2007.)

My opponent has been unprincipled on this issue, saying to the Seattle Times that "he would support letting people put some of their Social Security taxes into investment accounts. This amounts to privatizing a portion of the system." Last night, he flip-flopped on this issue. But we need a member of Congress who will take a principled stand to protect the retirement security -- as I will.

On a question about important issues facing her district, her answer included, "fighting to protect Social Security against George Bush's plan to privatize it -- a plan he and other Republican leaders have said is a top priority in 2007." And in response to a query on running for office with no experience she said one motivation was "working to ensure the solvency of Social Security for decades to come."

Ok, great. But, her website has been a little light on the issue, stating for example on the Issues page:

Darcy will protect our retirement

Social Security and private pensions are critical to our retirement system. Both are promises made to working people that Congress should fight to keep. Privatization will cut guaranteed Social Security benefits nearly in half - thus actually putting the system in crisis. I will fight against risky schemes that will destroy it.

Readers know full well this author is passionate about Social Security, and thinks not very much indeed of Democratic thought on the subject. But I'm intrigued. Burner says she wants "to ensure the solvency of Social Security for decades to come." Could she explain what her plan is to do so? Does such a plan include more than just the tax increase she already supports?

If she doesn't have her own plan "to ensure the solvency of Social Security for decades to come" could she please point to the Democratic plan she is most aligned with? [Hint: there's not a lot to choose from.] It doesn't have to be a perfect fit, just something to give us all an idea of where she stands, please, rather than just the Democratic stereotype of "I oppose George W. Bush's nasty, wicked scheme to privatize Social Security."

So candidate Burner, what's the plan?

Posted by Eric Earling at October 12, 2006 08:03 AM | Email This
1. You know what amuses me about this campaign as a resident of the 8th? The fact they keep harping on Reichert getting along with the President. I've driven all over the 8th the past month or so (probably more than little Darcy, quite frankly) and I see lots of W stickers and still lots of Bush/Cheney stickers. In a district where people of every socioeconomic strata are unapologetically supportive of the President, why does she and the Wa Dems really think that's gonna convince most of us to vote for her over Reichert?

Posted by: ferrous on October 12, 2006 08:13 AM
2. Any politician who believes that privatization of Social Security will destroy the program is not fit for office. Investing SSI surpluses ANYWHERE outside government Treasury notes is the only way to defer insolvency.

Democrats offer nothing but dangerous promises to get elected, like Bill Clinton's promises in 1994 that giving North Korea $4 billion, nuclear energy technology and Plutonium would make a safer world. The utter hypocrisy of Democrats like Hillary Clinton this week, blaming Bush for North Korea's bomb, would be laughable if not so incredibly disengenuous and self-serving.

If Darcy Burner believes that Social Security will be safer without privatization, then she is not only wrong, but she will increase the likelihood that SSI will collapse and another couple trillion dollars in surpluses will be stolen and spent.

Democrats couldn't be more wrong on SSI, but their daily actions only prove that the only thing they care about is winning elections, even if America is a smoldering ruin afterwards. Their lies about Social Security and privatization is only making reforms more impossible and is only increasing the liklihood that SSI, Medicare, DI and Prescription Drug benefits will fail, beginning in less than a decade.

Posted by: MJC on October 12, 2006 08:36 AM
3. The future use of Social Security to create the dependency on big government is threatened with talks of privatization. The Dems will only scream louder when more and more people discover they will be far wealthier outside this system. The longer people are trapped inside this system, the more wealth they will sacrifice.

Posted by: Gary B on October 12, 2006 09:13 AM
4. Eric,

Is the system to far gone now to be helped by the governement not using the surplus money for other programs as they have since SS was put into place? We all know now that if they just invested that money when the program started retirees would be very well off. Now sadly you aren't. But I guess that's why my Grandpa and Dad both stressed to me to never count on the government for your retirement or general welfare.

Posted by: Dengle on October 12, 2006 09:23 AM

How are you going to save social security?

"I am going to fight George Bush's plan to destroy it"

How are you going solve America's energy addiction?

"I am going to fight George Bush's plan to raise energy prices and work with scientists to turn cabbage into clean burning coal."

How are you going to make housing more affodable?

"I am going to fight George Bush's plan to increase the gap between the rich and the working poor"

How are you going to bring transportation dollars to Washington?

"I am going to fight George Bush's plan to make Seattlites ride in donkey carts."

Hint: Blaming George Bush for everything won't get you elected. But you might get to be on CNN a lot.

Just ask John Kerry Heinz.

Posted by: Andy on October 12, 2006 09:33 AM
6. With the cost of living so high that families can barely get by, how do you expect people will find the money to "privately risk" investment on their own? Socialy Security would be very fluent today, if the 2 parties that borrowed from it, would pay back their IOU's!

Posted by: BLANCHE on October 12, 2006 09:42 AM
7. As I've stated before, both parties' ideas for social security stink. The Republican plan costs too much, and the Democrats have no plan, other than raise taxes to cover the shortfall. Just let employers divert a percent of social security taxes for employees into existing 401k or 403b plans in return for some reduced amount of benefits. This keeps the costs low and gives people a personal stake without the huge transitional costs and ongoing maintenance of having government sponsored plans.

If this option was offered, I would sign up tomorrow. Most people have done alot better with their money in their 401k's than the 1 or 2% they will get from their SS "investment".

Posted by: Palouse on October 12, 2006 09:45 AM
8. Darcy, if privatization is so bad, let's compare private schooling vs. public schooling. Private housing vs. public housing. Private restrooms to public toilets. Do you see the connection?

Posted by: PC on October 12, 2006 10:04 AM
9. What about the Powell Doctrine? Maybe she'll find a similar plan to latch onto, I mean who needs to be orginal here? Did she, and the countless other Democrats, forget that Powell was the SoS under Bush? This woman is a shill for Dwight Pelz and Howard Dean, pure and simple. Maybe she can get a job as their spokeswoman after she loses this race? What do you think?

Posted by: Patrick on October 12, 2006 10:13 AM
10. Even with the surpluses invested and not spent, the promises made by the social liberals for SSI, Medicare, DI and Prescription Drugs were never adequately funded to support the boomers. But if the surpluses from today on were invested outside the government, the crisis could be pushed out for decades and give responsible leaders time to fix the problem.

Democrats do not want the problem fixed! They like the issue more than protecting Americans who will be adversely affected when SSI, Medicare, DI and the Prescription Drug programs become insolvent.

One estimate from the Concord Coalition states that between 2015 and 2080, Social Security will have a $26 TRILLION shortfall and Medicare will have a whopping $41.3 TRILLION deficit. So even if we had the $2 trillion in the bank the government has spent and the additional $3 trillion estimated in surpluses between now and 2015 when SSI goes into the RED, we'd need a miracle to turn that $5 trillion into $67.3 trillion in payouts over the next 65 years.

We have a trainwreck coming. George Bush wants to take steps to avoid it, or at least delay and reduce the tragic consequences when it occurs. The Democrats, on the other hand, only see another political issue they can exploit to put fear into people and convince them to support a party that has no solutions to any of our problems, but wants you to support them based on lies and distortions made against the other party.

Posted by: MJC on October 12, 2006 10:33 AM
11. I have noticed Darcy Burner seems to be running against George Bush. All she can say is she will "fight Bush". In two years, Bush won't even be president! That line may work for Seattle liberals, but it falls on deaf ears in the 8th district.

The only thing that worries me about privatization of social security is that if the government gets involved in the market, they will ruin it too. Right now, they can keep their socialist insecurity and stay the hell out of the market and I will be able to retire just fine thank you.

Their false promises they make every year with their little statement they mail out will prove to be worhtless promises. I am keeping all those, so when I retire and the liberals are still making their wild claims about how SS will be the greatr provider, the evidence of the ponzi scheme will be undeniable.

Posted by: pbj on October 12, 2006 10:54 AM
12. Liberals like Darcy. No real answers except blame Bush now. Anyone can see that Social Security requires changes to survive, and all Darcy and her ilk can think of is to keep the status quo which will only lead to dumping more money into a proven failure and ponzi scheme. Unlike on the right, It's not a rational debate as to exactly what we must do to fix Social Security, on the left, it's a debate to whether we keep doing the same thing and pretending that there is no problem.

The Democrats have removed themselves from rational debate in this country. All real debate is now happening on the right between moderates and the more conservative Republicans. That's why we have to keep Democrats from power. Pick any issue. On the right, the debate is between sensible alternatives and/ or the degree to which a given issue will be solved within reality. On the left, it's just shrill hyperventilating on the extreme. Seriously, pick any issue and think about it.

The left will lose in November and they will lose in 2008. There's nothing left of the left.

Posted by: Jeff B. on October 12, 2006 11:23 AM
13. If the Federal Government simply took the Social Security surpluses and put the paper dollars into a vault - and they earned nothing - we'd be far, far better off than we are today.

I say let's start by taking the money away from the spenders before they can steal it and spend it on something else. Once that has been accomplished, then we can worry about trying to maximize the return on investment versus impacts on different investment institutions.

It's unfortunate that return on investment was even introduced into the argument when the interest on the Treasury notes that make up the trust funds is simply IOU money too.

Posted by: MJC on October 12, 2006 11:38 AM
14. Darcy sounds so much like another losing candidate always saying "I have a plan", but never expressing what that plan is. The truth is they do not have a plan, never have had a plan and wont have a plan for the future.

I heard Darcy's response about SS on John Carlson's show and she has that response memorized to the last syllable. Not impressive.

Posted by: Marge on October 12, 2006 11:40 AM
15. darcy the drama queen wants to make Dave a siamese twin of GWB. Dave simply needs to juxtapose the drama queens non-answers with the non-answers of Nancy Pelosi. The dram queen gave his campaign the perfect opening when she brought up Pelosi's "1st 100 hours" in the her talking point performance that was advertised as a debate.

Posted by: Cheryl on October 12, 2006 12:16 PM
16. funny how libs/dem politicians fear the evil private sector, as in some type of SSI privatization.

yet, they happily invest their private funds in it and their supporting organizations have trillions in pension funds parked there too--in all types of companies--"good, evil and in-between" per their biases.

i'll bet their Dem & lib voting constitutents are also largely invested in their own 401k's and equivalents and seem to function well self-directing their lives and investing without the big government "helping" them.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on October 12, 2006 04:41 PM
17. When Darcy talks look at here eye's, the eye's are open but there's no one home.

Posted by: George on October 12, 2006 04:59 PM
18. What puzzles me is *if* SS is privatized and recipients invest their entitled monies, what happens if they invest poorly and lose it? Will they wind up on the welfare rolls? Then what?

Posted by: BAS on October 12, 2006 07:18 PM
19. Those who support private accounts should take the time to understand how SS works.

The benefit amount that is paid is determined by the earnings of your highest 35 work years multiplied by a formula. The formula is progressive, it pays lower earners a greater propotion of their earnings than it pays to higher earners.

Notice the "rate-of-return" of the Trust Fund monies DOES NOT enter into the formula.

If everyone simply had their own private accounts how would you achieve the progressivity of SS?

Or maybe progressivity is one of the aspects of SS that you want to eliminate ????

My guess is if you were to eliminate the wealth distribution aspects of the current system it would be solvent well into the next century.

But then you would have to be honest and explain exactly what you were changing about the current system ...

Posted by: Jeff Jones on October 12, 2006 09:38 PM
20. This seems simple as pie to me, which makes me worry that I am wrong. Here goes anyway: Doesn't one hundred percent of new revenue for SSI come from the private sector? Isn't all government revenue generated from the private sector? Even the most pro-government economist must admit that government doesn't generate or grow revenue. Government takes in money, restributes it and then pays what is left over into the Social Security system. If the U.S. government can thrive off of the private sector, what makes anyone believe SSI wouldn't thrive also?

Posted by: Elaine on October 12, 2006 09:58 PM
21. BAS @ 18 -

An excellent question. Here is a good answer (excerpted from the complete article):

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A Model for Social Security Reform
A case study already exists in Galveston County, Texas -- and might offer some lessons for lawmakers in Washington.
By Ray Holbrook with Alcestis "Cooky" Oberg, USA Today, 3/15/2005

The current debate about reforming Social Security reminds me of the discussions that occurred in Galveston County, Texas, in 1980, when our county workers were offered a different, and better, retirement alternative to Social Security: They reacted with keen interest and some knee-jerk fear of the unknown. But after 24 years, folks here can say unequivocally that when Galveston County pulled out of the Social Security system in 1981, we were on the road to providing our workers with a better deal than Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

When I was county judge in 1979, many county workers were concerned about the soundness of Social Security, as many people are today. We could either stay with it -- and its inevitable tax increases and higher retirement ages -- or find a better way. We sought an "alternative plan" that provided the same or better benefits, required no tax increases and was risk-free. Furthermore, we wanted the benefits to be like a savings account that could be passed on to family members upon death.

Our plan, put together by financial experts, was a "banking model" rather than an "investment model." To eliminate the risks of the up-and-down stock market, workers' contributions were put into conservative fixed-rate guaranteed annuities, rather than fluctuating stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Our results have been impressive: We've averaged about 6.5% annual rate of return over 24 years. And we've provided substantially better benefits in all three Social Security categories: retirement, survivorship, disability.

Upon retirement after 30 years, and assuming a more conservative 5% rate of return, all workers would do better for the same contribution as Social Security:

•Workers making $17,000 a year are expected to receive about 50% more per month on our alternative plan than on Social Security -- $1,036 instead of $683.

•Workers making $26,000 a year will make almost double Social Security, $1,500 instead of $853.

•Workers making $51,000 a year will get $3,103 instead of $1,368.

•Workers making $75,000 or more will nearly triple Social Security, $4,540 instead of $1,645.

•Our survivorship benefits pay four times a worker's annual salary -- a minimum of $75,000 to a maximum $215,000 -- rather than Social Security's customary onetime $255 survivorship to a spouse (with no minor children). If the worker dies before retirement, the survivors receive not only the full survivorship but get generous accidental death benefits, too.

•Our disability benefit pays 60% of an individual's salary, better than Social Security's.


We got our plan in place before the U.S. Congress passed a "reform" bill in 1983 that closed the door for local governments to opt out of Social Security.

To be sure, our plan wasn't perfect, and we've had to make some adjustments. For instance, a few of our retired county workers are critical of the plan today because they say they are making less money than they would have on Social Security. This is because our plan allowed workers to make "hardship" withdrawals from the retirement plan during their working years. Some workers withdrew funds for current financial problems and consequently robbed their own future benefits. We closed that option down in January 2005.


Also, if there were some residual uncertainty about privatizing a portion of worker contributions, a plan could be devised in which low-income earners would be guaranteed the same funds they would get with total participation in Social Security.

Our experience has shown that even low-income workers would do better, but a guarantee would ease their worries. Moderate- and higher-income workers would do much better, as ours do, because they have invested more in the plan and are not prejudicially punished or "topped out" on retirement benefits, as they are in Social Security.


We sought a secure, risk-free alternative to the Social Security system, and it has worked very well for nearly a quarter-century. Our retirees have prospered, and our working people have had the security of generous disability and accidental death benefits.

Most important, we didn't force our children and grandchildren to be unduly taxed and burdened for our retirement care while these fine young people are struggling to raise and provide for their own families.


Judge Ray Holbrook was Galveston County judge from 1967 to 1995, and oversaw the creation and administration of the Galveston County alternative plan.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The most important features of Galveston County's plan are these:

1) Limited, conservative, investment (er, "banking") options. Plan participants cannot gamble their retirement savings in risky investments. Personally, I think that annuities (as GC chose) are not the best choice (though not a bad choice), and that a plan should also offer a life-cycle fund and an S&P 500 index fund.

2) No withdrawals prior to retirement. A lesson GC's plan learned from experience, as it initially allowed so-called "hardship withdrawals". This practice was ended after it was found that some participants who took such withdrawals ended up with smaller benefits than SS would have provided - in effect, they "robbed" themselves.

A plan like GC's could replace and privatize Social Security, if the enabling legislation incorporated similar restrictions, and established the standards that must be met by private entities desiring to serve as plan trustees. I envision that employer 401(k) plans could serve in such a capacity, also plans offered by firms such as Schwab, Prudential, TIAA-CREF, etc.

Posted by: ewaggin on October 12, 2006 10:19 PM
22. Jeff Jones @ 19 asked:

"If everyone simply had their own private accounts how would you achieve the progressivity of SS?"

Jeff, I'm quite certain that the vast majority of lower-income workers, if offered a plan like Galveston County's (see my comment @ 21), would eagerly choose the higher benefits of the GC plan over the warm glow of self-satisfaction derived from sticking with the "progressivity of SS".

Posted by: ewaggin on October 12, 2006 10:30 PM
23. ewaggin thanks for the info ...

Here is another evaluation of the GC plan that is not written by the judge who implemented the plan.

Readers can decide for themselves ...


Posted by: Jeff Jones on October 13, 2006 12:03 AM
24. i love the "keeping promises made" arguments for not reforming SSI. who has not tweaked a plan, marriage or other business model after 30-40 years? does Sears still sell the same way or stock the same products as in the early 1900's?

in additon, SSI has grown WAY beyond its original theme--into many benefits duplicated by other govt programs. cut the overlaps, if any.

like a slow-growing cancer, SSI needs to be addressed. sure, it will be painful soon, but the alternative--waiting & hoping--is worse. do the 'chemo' now.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on October 14, 2006 03:19 AM
25. Jeff Jones @ 19 sez: "Those who support private accounts should take the time to understand how SS works." Agreed! Educate yourselves!!! SSI is an insurance program for the aged and/or disabled who meet poverty level means standards. Though its qualification guidelines are the same as SS, it is not part of the Social Security system and is not funded by its assets. Funding for SSI is via the US General Fund. There is a huge monetary difference beteween SSI and SSA and educated people oughtta know!

And what if a SS recipient had invested in a "privatized" account with Enron? Good idea?

Posted by: Fremont on October 14, 2006 10:54 AM
26. SSI vs. SSA information is here! Read it and learn.

Go, Darcy!

Posted by: Fremont on October 14, 2006 11:13 AM
27. Yea, go barcy. Go home!

Posted by: alphabet soup on October 14, 2006 10:30 PM
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