Decades later Harry's tune has changed


Harry Reid now says Social Security is just fine. No need to worry about it for decades to come.

The following are excerpts from the Congressional Record, Oct. 9, 1990:

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Robb). The Senator from Nevada.

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Mr. REID. Mr. President, I have listened to the discussion of the senior Senator from New York today on a subject that deserves attention. As a result of his activity in these past many months, we are not focusing on a subject we should have focused on a while ago. I appreciate the work done by the Senator from New York on this legislation.

I would like to talk about the Social Security trust fund in a number of other difficult perspectives for a few minutes this morning.

The Senator from New York has done an outstanding job talking about his legislation and the overall history of Social Security.

I practiced law before coming to the Senate. Like most attorneys who have an office practice where they deal with clients who have problems, I had a trust fund set up for my clients. If there were ever a time where money came into my office that was my clients' money, that money had to go into a trust fund.

Mr. President, before that money was distributed out of that trust fund, we had to make sure that money went to the client. That money could not be used to make car payments for me, house payments for me, or buy a present for one of my children. That money could only be used for the purpose for which it was placed in that trust fund.

The same basic rule should apply to the Social Security trust fund. Those moneys should be used only for the purpose for which the money is collected. If, when I practiced law, I violated that trust, I could be subject to disbarment. I could be subject to administrative procedures being taken against me by the Bar Association. In fact, I could be criminally prosecuted by the district attorney.

In the instance of the Social Security trust fund, those moneys are used for purposes other than for Social Security recipients, and that is wrong. But here in Congress, we have become pretty careless and callous in what we do with trust fund moneys.

We do the same thing with the highway trust fund moneys. Five cents from every gallon of gas that we buy goes toward a trust fund for roads, highways, and bridges, but in fact we do not use that money for those purposes. We have violated that highway trust fund and used those moneys for other purposes; namely, to make the debt look smaller, just like we use the Social Security trust fund moneys. That is wrong. We should not do that.

That is what this discussion is all about. The discussion is are we as a country violating a trust by spending Social Security trust fund moneys for some purpose other than for which they were intended. The obvious answer is yes.

The President, who is a party in this violation of trust, along with Members of Congress, is not being brought before a Bar Association for purposes of disbarment or some type of administrative remedy. There is no prosecuting authority saying, Mr. President, what you have done is illegal. But the fact is it is wrong; what has taken place is wrong. ...

(lengthy discussion of notch babies deleted)

It is time for Congress, I think, to take its hands--and I add the President in on that--off the Social Security surpluses. Stop hiding the horrible truth of the fiscal irresponsibility that we have talked about here the past 2 weeks. It is time to return those dollars to the hands of those who earned them--the Social Security beneficiaries and future beneficiaries.

I follow closely the legislative activities generated by the Senator from New York. This is a debate that has been long overdue. But for his forceful advocacy of changing business as usual, we hear about business as usual.

I heard the President of the United States Saturday morning talk about how we do not want business as usual. Well, I say to you, Mr. President, through you to the President of the United States, we do not want business as usual with the Social Security trust funds. And that is why we are here. That is why we are here to talk about some of the inequities that have taken place in this country by using Social Security trust fund moneys for purposes other than for which they were intended.

I go back to when I practiced law. As I have indicated here already, had I used those trust fund moneys in my law business for purposes other than for which they were intended; namely, my clients, I could be subject to criminal prosecution, administrative proceedings taken against me by the Bar Association, and maybe even disciplinary action.

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(pointing to a sign with the "embezzlement" in red letter)

Mr. REID. I think that is a very good illustration of what I was talking about, embezzlement, thievery. Because that, Mr. President, is what we are talking about here. But for the dialog started by the Senator from New York, we would not be here today. And I publicly commend and applaud the vigorous activity generated by the Senator from New York because on that chart in emblazened red letters is what has been taking place here, embezzlement. During the period of growth we have had during the past 10 years, the growth has been from two sources: One, a large credit card with no limits on it, and, two, we have been stealing money from the Social Security recipients of this country.

I yield the floor.

Mr. MOYNIHAN. Mr. President, I express my great appreciation to my colleague and friend from Nevada. He has a quiet, effective way of putting things. I can see why he was so successful an advocate. We are dealing with such elemental issues of trust and the relationship of people to their government. If they cannot trust that, then what can they trust?

We have just had passed out for us the Democratic Policy Committee legislative bulletin. I have to say I am appalled. I really am appalled. I knew our party was in trouble, but I did not know how much trouble. It asks what the effect of this bill will be. It says it will diminish fund reserves by almost $4 billion in fiscal year 1991 and it will diminish fund reserves by more than $170 billion over the next 6 years.

There are no reserves. They have all been embezzled. They have been spent.

Mr. REID. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. MOYNIHAN. Yes.

Mr. REID. Maybe what we should do in conjunction with the President to really carry this conspiracy to its appropriate end, is rather than having it called the Social Security trust fund, why do we not change it and call it the `Social Security slush fund?'