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Today You Die (2005) [2021]

President Discusses Strengthening Social Security in MississippiNissan North America Manufacturing PlantCanton, Mississippi In Focus: Social Security 12:17 P.M. CDT THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Please beseated. Thank you very much for the warm welcome. My first observationis that I overdressed. (Laughter and applause.) And my secondobservation is, what an amazing facility you have here. (Applause.) Imean, you're coming in on the highway, and all of a sudden the Nissanplant starts to -- shows up, and it lasts for a long time. So thanksfor having me. I want to congratulate the dreamers and doers who hadthis plant here, and I want to thank the workers for making it work.You can have a -- (applause.) You know what I know, you can have apretty building, but if you don't have a motivated, highly-skilled workforce, nothing is coming out. And I want to thank you all for showingthe world that America can compete with anybody. (Applause.) I want tothank the folks who greeted me, Dan Guadette and Jim Morton, GregDaniels, Dave Boyer -- thank you all for your hospitality. Thanks forletting us come. I particularly want to thank you all for taking timeout of your busy work schedules. Hope it wasn't an inconvenience to getyou off the line. (Laughter.) I know you want me to be short, so youcan get back to work. (Laughter.) Okay, I won't be. I've got somethingI want to talk about; I'm going to spend a little time on SocialSecurity. This is an incredibly important subject for a lot of folks.This is going to be an educational experience, and I've asked some ofour fellow citizens to join me up here, to make it clear to you all whyI'm talking about this issue to begin with. Before I do, there's somepeople I want to recognize, starting with the great Governor of thestate of Mississippi, Haley Barbour. (Applause.) Welcome, Governor.Thank you. And his wife, Marsha, the First Lady. (Applause.) Haleymarried well, and so did I. I don't know about you, Haley, but my wifehas become quite a one-liner, and she can deliver those one-liners. Icalled her Laura Leno Bush the other day. I love her dearly. She is afabulous woman and a great First Lady. I'm sorry she's not with me heretoday. (Applause.) I want to thank the Lieutenant Governor, Amy Tuck,for joining us. Governor, thank you for being here. (Applause.)Traveling with me is the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings.Thanks for coming, Madam Secretary. (Applause.) Here's what we believein Washington, at least Margaret and I believe this: Every child canlearn. We believe that. We don't accept a system that simply shuffleskids through school without teaching them how to read and write and addand subtract. I believe schools ought to set high expectations, and Ibelieve we ought to measure to determine whether to not each child islearning to read and write. And by measuring, we can figure out whoneeds help early, before it's too late. I believe it when I say it thatwe should have no child left behind in America by insisting on highstandards in our schools. (Applause.) I'm traveling with some high --high power out of Washington today. Senator Trent Lott, head of theBudget Committee and a great friend, is with us. Thank you for being,Senator. (Applause.) And Tricia Lott. That's not Tricia, that's thegranddaughter. And the head of the Appropriations Committee, SenatorThad Cochran. Thank you both for being here. (Applause.) The Senatorand I traveled down on Air Force One together, and I guess the messageI heard was, don't forget Mississippi, Mr. President. (Applause.) Iappreciate Congressman Roger Wicker and Congressman Chip Pickeringjoining us today. Thank you guys for coming. (Applause.) You might beaware of the Pickering name. I was proud to appoint Chip's dad, JudgeCharles Pickering, to the Fifth Court. What a fine man he was and whata fine judge he was, and give him our best, please, Chip. (Applause.)Senator Travis Lee is with us. Senator, appreciate you coming. Howabout the Mayor of Canton, Fred Esco? Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Appreciateyou. (Applause.) There are a lot of other folks. If I spent time namingthem, you'd never get back to work. So I'm going to stop trying to namethem all. But I do want to name one other person. I had the honor ofmeeting Ruth Wilson today, when I landed there in Jackson Airport. Ruthis a longtime volunteer. She helped organize a program at her churchthat has established a food pantry, an academic tutoring program, aclothes closet and a transportation service for the elderly. The reasonI bring up Ruth is I want to remind you all that the great strength ofAmerica lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens. Some people saythe strength of America is our military; we've got a strong militaryand I can assure you we're going to keep it that way. (Applause.) Somepeople say it's because our economy is the biggest in the world; that'simportant and we're going to keep the environment such that we'llcontinue to expand jobs across America. But the true strength ofAmerica is the fact we've got people like Ruth, who are willing to taketime out of their lives to feed the hungry, to provide shelter for thehomeless, to love a neighbor just like you would like to be lovedyourself. If you want to serve America, join the army of compassion;volunteer; make a difference in somebody's life. Help change this greatcountry one heart and one soul at a time -- just like Ruth Wilson is.Ruth, thank you for coming. (Applause.) I don't know where you are --there you are. Welcome. (Applause.) I'm here to talk about the SocialSecurity system. I've spent a lot of time working on this issue. Ibelieve the job of a President is to confront problems and not passthem on to future Presidents or future Congresses. I think you expectpeople in office, like me, if we see a problem, to deal with it, andnot say, oh, it's too big a political risk to deal with it; or maybe, Idon't feel like dealing with it; or maybe, somebody says I shouldn'tdeal with it. I believe you send people to office to say here is aproblem and to take it on squarely. And that's exactly why I'm sittinghere today in Canton, Mississippi, because I see a problem in SocialSecurity. And I believe I have a duty as your President to talk aboutthe problem and talk about the solution. And here's the problem: First, Franklin Roosevelt did a smart thingwhen it came time to setting up Social Security. Social Security checkshave meant a lot to a lot of people. You know what I'm talking about.Your moms and dads or your grandparents count on that check. We've gotsome people sitting up here today who count on that check. I fullyunderstand that when you're talking about Social Security, you'retalking about something really important for a lot of people. Andtherefore, the first thing I want to leave you with is that if you'regetting a Social Security check today, you're going to keep gettingyour check. I don't care what the propagandists say, I don't care whatthe politicians say, nobody is going to take your check away. And it'simportant for you to understand that. (Applause.) Matter of fact, ifyou were born in 1950 -- before 1950, nothing is going to change. Inother words, the system is solvent for you. The problem is if you're ayounger worker. And see, here's the problem: A bunch of baby boomers,just like me, are getting ready to retire. I reach retirement age infour years from now. That's a convenient time for me to retire.(Laughter.) I turn 62. The government says when you're 62, you canstart drawing a check. There are a lot of us. As a matter of fact,there's 40 million retirees today. There's over 70 million that will befully retired when the baby boomers retire completely. That's 70million people, nearly double the amount of people today on SocialSecurity. And secondly, we're living a lot longer. I try to stay inshape. I exercise and all that, try to do -- make smart decisions withmy body. I plan on living a long time, and so do a lot of other peoplemy age. We're living longer than the previous generation. You've got alot of people getting ready to retire who are living longer than theprevious generation and we've been promised greater benefits. In otherwords, you have people running for office saying, vote for me, I'mgoing to make sure the baby boomers get greater benefits than theprevious generation. So think about that man for a second, particularlyif you're a younger worker. You got a lot of people like me livinglonger than ever before, been promised a lot of benefits, and there'sfewer of you paying into the system. You see, in 1950, there was 15workers paying into the system for every beneficiary -- 16 workers forevery beneficiary. Today there is 3.3 workers, fewer of you all payingfor people like me, who are going to live longer and have been promisedgreater benefits. Now, this is a pay-as-you-go system; you pay in, andwe go ahead and pay out in Washington. You pay into the system -- somepeople say, well, there's a Social Security trust, we'll just take yourmoney and hold it for you and give it back to you when you retire.That's not the way the system works. Part of my responsibility as yourPresident is to tell you exactly what's going on, to lay it right outthere for you to hear. The way it works in Social Security is yourpayroll taxes -- and you pay a lot of payroll taxes -- go into thesystem, and we're paying for retirees, like two of the people sittingup here today. And if we have any money left over, it goes to fundgovernment programs. And all that's left is an IOU. That's how thesystem works. And so you're paying in, and it's going out. Nobody is --you're not paying in and we're holding the money for you. You're payingin and it's going out. And in 2017, because baby boomers like me aregetting ready to retire, the system starts to go in the red. In 2027, it's $200 billion a year in the red. In 2030, it's $300 billion; 2041 it is bankrupt. In other words, it's out. Sothink about what I'm telling you. This is the math, folks, this isexactly what's going to take place unless we do something about it. I'mready to -- people like me are retiring; we expect the government tomake good on the promise, of course. But yet, we don't have enoughmoney coming into the system to do so. So a lot of younger workers outthere will be paying into a system that's bankrupt. And that's notfair. And that's why I've taken on this issue, and that's why I'mgoing to continue traveling the country talking about the need to makesure the safety net of retirement is not only good for those who haveretired, but it's good for a generation coming up. Now, I talked about-- the other day I had a press conference, and I've spoken about thisissue at the -- during my State of the Union address. I said, look, Inot only have a responsibility to lay out the problem, I've got aresponsibility to start helping people come up with the solution. It'sone thing to lay out the problem; it's another thing to stand up andsay here's some ideas to move forward, here's some ways we can worktogether -- first and foremost, future generations ought to receivebenefits equal to or greater than the previous generation. So I thinkif you've been working all your life, you ought to receive a benefitequal to or greater than the promises that I got. I think that's a fairsystem. So in other words, that's an important principle for people tolisten to. Secondly, if you work hard and -- Social Security yourentire life, you will not retire into poverty. The current systemtoday, by the way, doesn't say that. The current system says you canwork all your life and may end up in poverty. I don't think that'sfair. I think people who have worked hard all their life and payinginto the Social Security system ought to have a program that makes surethey won't retire into poverty. And so, therefore, I believe benefitsfor lower-income workers should grow faster than benefits forhigher-income workers, just to make sure that someone doesn't retireinto poverty. You know, you hear all this talk about benefit cuts;we're talking about making sure benefits grow at the rate of inflation-- that's what we're talking about. You've been promised something; itought to grow at the rate of inflation. Today, if you're anupper-income worker, it grows at the rate of wage growth. What I'mtelling people is, is that ought to be applying for younger --lower-income workers, but not all workers, so that the system can takecare of those at the lower income scale. That makes sense to me. Ihope it makes sense to the United States Congress. I think FranklinRoosevelt would be proud to make sure of this. If you work all yourlife and contribute to Social Security you should not retire intopoverty. I think that's a principle that makes sense. I think it's alsoimportant for our elected leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, tocome to the table. The American people now understand we have aproblem. And our leaders must choose: Do nothing and guarantee amassive tax hike, or a 30 percent benefit cut; or act now to keep thepromises of Social Security for the 21st century. The reason I say donothing and get a tax hike -- if we don't do anything, it's estimatedthat younger workers will have to pay an 18-percent property -- payrolltax to make good on the promises. If you don't like 12, try 18. That'sa lot. Payroll taxes are some of the highest taxes people pay here inAmerica, and the idea of not having the political will to addressSocial Security and sticking younger workers with a high payroll taxdoesn't make any sense to me. Now, I know, sometimes Washington locksdown. They say, well, we can't do this, it will help a Republican orhelp a Democrat. We've got to get rid of that kind of thinking inWashington, D.C. We're talking about -- (applause.) I've got one otheridea I want to talk to you about. By the way, the idea I laid out theother day about growing benefits at the rate of inflation forlower-income workers -- rate of inflation for upper-income workers, andrate of wages for lower-income workers, solves most of the problem,long-term problem. There's some other things we can work with Congresson to make sure that younger workers have got a system available forthem. Nothing changes for our seniors -- I'm talking about those ofyou born prior to 1950. I'm really talking about the younger workers,because if we don't do anything, you're going to have a huge bill topay, one way or the other. Now, I've got another idea that I wantCongress to consider, and that is being able to take some of your ownmoney, your payroll tax that you pay in the system, and the governmentallow you to set up a personal savings account. First of all, it's yourmoney that you send into Washington -- not Washington's money, it'syour money. We kind of like to spend your money up there; remember,this is a system you pay in, we take care of the retirees, any moneyleft over we pay for other programs. Pretty soon the amount of moneyyou send in is going to be less than the money owed to retirees andit's going to go into the red. That's why, if we don't do anything,you're going to end up paying more taxes, or we have to cut benefits.But it's your money. Secondly, I think it's really important torecognize that if you grow your money at 4 percent or 5 percent, it'sgoing to amount to a lot more money than if you keep it in thegovernment and the government can grow it at 1.8 percent. It's howinterest continues to grow. Some of you may have 401(k)s, and you'rewatching that money begin to grow. And you hold it in there and itgrows over time, and it starts to -- the growth starts to accumulate.It's called the compounding interest. And that's an important conceptwhich is not a part of the system today. For example, if you have aperson who has worked all of her or his life at -- earned $35,000, andthe government allows you to take a third of your payroll taxes and setit up in a savings account, and that account earns a reasonable rate ofreturn, that, by the time you retire -- this is $35,000 over yourlifetime, by the way -- and you can take out some of the money, a thirdof the money that you're paying into the government and set up anaccount that's your own, you'll end up with $250,000 by the time itcomes to retire -- $250,000 plus that which the government can affordto pay you through Social Security. That's called a personal savingsaccount. That's your asset. The government can't use it. It's yours.Government can't spend it on other programs. It's a hard asset. Today,the program has got -- leaves behind IOUs, paper IOUs in a filingcabinet. I think when it comes time to make sure the safety net isavailable for younger Americans, we ought to make sure there's hardassets. You put money in the system; you ought to have an asset youcall your own as part of your retirement plan. Now, people ask me allthe time, well, if I have -- if I have a personal savings account, whatare the rules? Well, first of all, you can't take the money and put itin the lottery. In other words, this isn't a -- you can't shoot dicewith it. This is part of a retirement plan, and so you'll be given theoptions to choose a conservative mix of bonds and stocks. If you don'twant to take any risks, you can put it in government-backed Treasurybills. But a government-backed Treasury bill gets a greater rate ofreturn than the money that we've got in the federal government. Inother words, this is a chance to earn more -- watch your money grow ina better way through a conservative mix of bonds and stocks. Thisisn't a new idea, by the way. Guess who gets to do this right now.Federal employees, members of the Senate and the House ofRepresentatives. They've decided this is a pretty good idea forthemselves. Seems like to me, if it's good enough for them it ought tobe good enough for Nissan plant workers. (Applause.) The good news is,these four members of the Congress agree with me -- if it's good enoughfor them, it's good enough for you; that you ought to be given achance, if you want -- and that's the other aspect, this is a voluntarypersonal savings account. This isn't the government saying you've gotto do this. This is saying, if you want to do this, this option oughtto be available. Some people may not want to do it -- I fullyunderstand that. You stay in the Social Security system, and whenCongress gets it reformed and I sign the bill, there will be a SocialSecurity system. But I think you ought to be given the choice. As amatter of fact, I think the more government trusts people -- with theirown money, in this case -- the better off the country is. (Applause.)Thirdly, I like the idea of people owning something. I don't believethat ownership ought to be available just for a privileged few. I don'tbelieve that. I believe the more people are able to build assets theycall their own, the better off the country is. I want more peoplesaying, this is my asset, this is my money, and I'm going to leave itto whomever I choose. If I have a son or a daughter, I want to be ableto pass that on to the next generation. (Applause.) In our country'shistory, the truth is a lot of people hadn't accumulated assets. Andnow is the time to change that. I want people to say, this is mine; Iworked hard for this, I've watched this asset base grow, and now I'mgoing to decide -- I'm either going to use it for my retirement, if Iwant to, or I may decide to leave it to my son or daughter. Yourchoice. After all, it is your money. I want to -- I want it so thatpeople can say, I own something. The more people own something inAmerica, the more people are going to say, I really care about thefuture of this country. The more people own their home, the better offwe are. The more people own their own retirement system and watch itgrow, the better off we are. This plan is good for low-income people,particularly low-income women. Take a 20-year-old mom earning $8 anhour over her career; under my idea of things, when she retires at age63, she'd have a $100


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