Groups Urge President to Avoid Father's Tax-Hike Slip

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - Pointing to past presidents' mistakes in making no-tax pledges and then breaking them, 41 groups spanning the conservative movement Tuesday urged President Bush to avoid any Social Security reform deals that would violate his pledge to oppose tax increases.

"America's retirement program is completely broken, and any reform package that relies on such simplistic, punitive measures will not address its underlying failures," the letter stated.

According to the groups, raising payroll tax rates or the $94,200 cap on wages subject to Social Security taxes will not solve the system's fundamental demographic problems.

In response to recent reports that the administration is considering such increases, the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) - which was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government - organized the letter to persuade President Bush to renew that pledge.

Joining the NTU on the letter were such prominent groups as the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the Family Research Council and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

The participants noted that many past tax hikes have failed to save entitlement programs. The Medicare Hospital Insurance program's fiscal outlook is actually worsening despite Congress having raised the cap on wages subject to the tax in 1993.

The letter urges the president to push for individually owned retirement accounts that would "foster the kind of 'Ownership Society' for which it said Bush had been 'such a powerful advocate.'"

"Whether [tax-hike] schemes are proposed under the guise of hiking the rate, broadening the base or 'increasing fairness,' the appalling and unacceptable motive would be transparent: punt this problem to our children and grandchildren," the letter noted.

"Past presidents have made no-tax pledges and suffered greatly in breaking them," the groups said, in an apparent reference to President George H.W. Bush's "read my lips" gaffe.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Reps. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said last August that Americans were more likely to vote for Democrats in 2006 because "the future of Social Security rests on the outcome of the midterm congressional elections."

Ever since President Bush introduced his plan to allow people to divert part of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts, Democrats have accused him of attempting to "dismantle" the system.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last May that "despite White House scare tactics, Social Security remains sound for decades to come."

After Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in the Nov. 7 midterm election, leaders of several liberal organizations - including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare - gathered in Washington to organize support for the Democratic agenda.

However, the conservative organizations sending Bush their letter on Tuesday offered support of their own.

"We're confident that you share our opinion, and we stand ready to help you achieve true Social Security reform without tax hikes and other harmful gimmicks," the groups wrote.

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