Former Republican Rep pushes for social security reform

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004, emphasized the importance of Social Security reform for younger generations at GW Tuesday night.

During the speech, hosted by the College Republicans in the Marvin Center, Toomey said workers would receive a greater return on investment into safe, diversified funds under President George Bush’s plan compared to the current system.

Toomey, who served in Congress from 1999 to 2005, retired at the end of his last congressional term after he lost to Specter in the Republican primaries for Senate. He had criticized Specter for being a liberal who spent too much; he lost by less than 2 percent. Toomey is now the president and CEO of the Club for Growth, which runs advertisements in electoral swing districts and collects donations for candidates.

Toomey said he sees Social Security personal accounts as one step in the process of changing Americans’ mindset from reliance on government dependency to the responsibility of an ownership society.

About 75 students attended the event, most of whom agreed with Toomey’s stance on Social Security.

“Social Security reform is not only important but incredibly necessary for young people such as us,” freshman Mike Brown said. “It gives us a chance to take control of our own economic future.”

Mark Harris, director of publications for the College Republicans, echoed Toomey’s sentiments about benefits for younger workers.

“Young people aren’t going to see the money they put into the system,” Harris said. “With personal accounts you’ll see a seven to ten percent return compared to one percent now.”

During a question-and-answer session, some audience members expressed interest in improving Social Security for minorities. Toomey pointed out that black males have the lowest life expectancy at age 67.

“They start work at 16 and don’t retire until 66,” Toomey said. “After all those years we take money from this group and they never get money back.”

He suggested that personal, or private, accounts would allow minorities to save their own money and pass it on to their children.

But Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Bush’s Social Security program hurts minorities.

“The DNC is committed to informing the African-American community about this risky Social Security plan that cuts guaranteed benefits and puts our children and grandchildren permanently in debt,” Dean said in a statement last month.

While President Bush and Republican supporters are pushing Social Security reform in states across the country, national opponents said the president’s Social Security plan will raise the debt and cut benefits for American workers.

“We face aggressive opposition from Democratic Senators,” Toomey said Tuesday night. “We have a majority, but it’ll be hard to get the 60 votes we need (to prevent a filibuster).”

Freshman Timothy Mastrogiacomo said he agrees with Toomey but hopes for even more changes in America’s economic system.

“I thought it was pretty interesting,” he said. “I’d like to see Social Security abolished or privatized completely, but it’s a good start.”

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