Podesta Criticizes Hastert on Social Security

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - In a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), President Clinton's chief of staff John Podesta complained about the Republican's handling of Social Security, a big issue in the continuing budget battle between the White House and Capitol Hill.

Podesta told Hastert that Clinton sent legislation to Congress to ensure that the Social Security surplus is not spent. He said Clinton's legislation would extend Social Security's solvency to 2050, by "dedicating the interest savings from debt reduction to the Social Security trust fund."

In his letter, Podesta said, "Congress has not acted on that proposal, and most Americans would be surprised to know that the Republican lock box fails to extend Medicare or Social Security solvency by a single day."

Podesta commended congressional Democrats for stopping a Republican tax cut that would have undermined Social Security. He said, "The exploding tax cut that President Clinton vetoed would have cost $1 trillion over the next decade and $4 trillion over the following decade, just when the first baby boomers retire, Medicare becomes insolvent, and Social Security comes under strain. The clear, predictable impact of this plan would have been to drain hundreds of billions of dollars from Social Security surpluses."

Podesta also told Hastert, "We have an historic opportunity to eliminate the debt by 2015, while strengthening Social Security and Medicare." Podesta said that opportunity stems from "the tough decisions made by President Clinton and Congress in 1993 and 1997."

"Continuing balanced and responsible policies, is the only credible way to build on our progress and pay down the debt. Your exploding tax cut would have reversed our course of fiscal discipline and risked leaving America permanently in debt."

"A central tenet of the President's approach", according to Podesta, "is not only extending the life of the Social Security trust fund in the future, but also acting to protect the trust fund today." The President's plan does both, he said, adding, "By contrast, some Republicans have even confessed to a conscious strategy to force the use of the Social Security surplus this year purely in order to gain partisan political advantage."

Podesta said Clinton has proposed responsible offsets to prevent spending the Social Security surplus: "Instead of adopting these proposals, you have adopted a series of budgetary gimmicks, including the designation of the fully predictable and constitutionally mandated census as "emergency" spending. And just this week, the Congressional Budget Office has certified that the final Republican budget bills spend more than $17 billion of the Social Security surplus in this fiscal year."

Podesta also told Hastert, that he (Hastert) has a choice: "You can continue with this pointless partisanship, or, as the President suggested in his meeting with you, work with us to strengthen Social Security for the 21st century."

Hastert has not commented on the letter.