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Entitlements Growth

August 22, 1994

So, Jon Cowan and Rob Nelson think that senior citizens are getting much more out of government than what they put in (Commentary, Aug. 7). Evidently, Cowan and Nelson were shortchanged on their educational training. (I wonder, did not the over-35 crowd pay for most of that?) Their mathematics and economics skills are pathetic.

They claim that when Social Security began, there were 50 workers to pay for each retiree, but by 2025 the ratio will be 2 to 1. The assumption is that this is due to longevity, yet there is no mention of declining birthrates or immigration.

They further whine that the average 72-year-old will receive $98,600 more in benefits than he or she paid in. No mention of the debt owed to parents, teachers and others who fed them, taught them, protected them, changed their diapers, fought for this country in two world wars and more.

To repay what one cannot put a price on, Cowan and Nelson would slash their Social Security and Medicare and leave many of our elderly destitute.

Would I consider myself a New Dealer? Absolutely! Born in the Depression? No, L.B.J. was in the White House.


Los Angeles


One of the problems of politics today is that many participants are more interested in fighting than in accomplishing something. They look for issues that can be exploited rather than problems that can be solved.

This bias shows when the directors of a group called Lead or Leave attack the composition of the Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform because the young aren't adequately represented.

So they unfairly attack me and my Republican colleague, Rep. Bill Archer, as "entitlement warhorses" who will never make the tough decisions they think are required to reduce the deficit. Like many critics, they're ignorant of history.

Recently, I've been moving in the same direction as Lead or Leave. I am seen as the godfather of the 1990 budget deal that made the first significant dent in the deficit in more than a decade. I created something called the Rostenkowski challenge, which called for reductions in anticipated Social Security benefits and other entitlements. George Bush responded with a proposal that we gradually turned into a $500-billion deficit reduction program, although neither Bush nor my colleagues in Congress would accept the Social Security changes I suggested. Last year, I led the battle for President Clinton's deficit reduction plan, which also aimed to cut the anticipated deficit by $500 billion over five years. It appears it will surpass that goal. And, earlier this year, I put forth a Social Security reform proposal that restricts benefits and raises taxes to guarantee the solvency of Social Security for another century.

If Lead or Leave thinks my plan is deficient, they should debate it and come up with a plan of their own.

The facts are simple. The deficit must be reduced. Entitlements must be brought under control. The young can't get the job done themselves. By joining with others who share their views even if they are members of another generation, they have a fair chance of getting the job done.




Two Aug. 9 articles: 1) Special congressional task force indicates that existing entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicaid, if left unchanged, will soon absorb all federal tax revenues to the exclusion of national defense, public safety, environmental protection, etc.; and 2) the Administration and congressional leadership are proposing to create the largest-ever, new entitlement with their revised health-care system. Do any of these people ever talk to one another? Where will the money come from?


La Jolla

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