WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The following are remarks by President
Bush in a conversation on strengthening social security:
Qwest Center Omaha Arena
8:40 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. (Applause.) Please be seated.
Thanks for being here. (Applause.) Thanks for inviting me back. One of the
last times I was here, remember, I was out there with Senator Hagel, and he
said, give them your best fast ball. (Laughter.) This wasn't a political
moment, this was the College World Series. (Laughter.) I finally remember the
college -- Mr. Mayor, I appreciate you being able to extend the contract for
the College World Series here to Omaha, Nebraska. (Applause.)
We're not here to talk baseball today, and we're certainly not here to
talk college football. (Laughter.) If you know what I mean. (Laughter.) We're
here to talk public policy, about how to make America better place. I want to
thank the Governor for joining us today. Governor, where are you? Thanks for
coming. I appreciate you being here. (Applause.)
I guess you kind of like my decision-making. (Applause.) I'll be frank
with you -- I didn't ask Johanns to join my Cabinet to make you Governor,
although -- (laughter) -- I'm sure you're going to do a fine job. I did it
because, one, he's a fine guy; two, agriculture is important to this country,
and no doubt he's going to be a fine Secretary of Agriculture. (Applause.)
I am pleased to be working with Senator Chuck Hagel. He is a smart,
capable man. He loves his country; he loves Nebraska. Looking forward to
working with you, Chuck, for four more years. (Applause.)
I'm proud that Senator Ben Nelson is here. He is a man with whom I can
work, a person who is willing to put partisanship aside to focus on what's
right for America. Senator, thanks for coming. (Applause.) Congressman Lee
Terry is with us today. Congressman, proud you're here, thanks for coming.
(Applause.) Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is with us today. Thank you,
Congressman. (Applause.) Sounds like they've heard of you. And of course,
Congressman Tom Osborne is with us today. (Applause.)
Mayor, thanks for coming -- former Mayor Hal Daub is with us today. Mayor,
thank you for being here. (Applause.) He, by the way, is Chairman of the
Social Security Advisory Board. The President needs a lot of advice. The
country needs advice on Social Security, and that's what we're here to talk
about after a while.
By the way, Tom Osborne and I had the honor of being at the National
Prayer Breakfast, Thursday. He gave a fantastic talk. He's a humble, decent
guy. I reminded people that the State of the Union was kind of like a giant
prayer session -- members of Congress were praying I'd keep my speech short.
It's good to be here on the -- right after the State of the Union. See, I
believe one of my responsibilities is to travel our country talking about
problems and how we intend to solve them, reminding people that the job of a
President is to confront problems, not to pass them on to future generations
and future Presidents. (Applause.)
One of the problems we face is the war on terror. The war on terror goes
on. And it's important as the Commander-in-Chief that I speak as bluntly and
frankly as I can about the perils we face. That's why I told the Congress it's
important for the Congress to continue to support our men and women who wear
our nation's uniform as they pursue the terrorists around the world.
It's important for us to continue to work with our allies and friends to
make the world a safer place. Every terrorist we bring to justice makes our
children and grandchildren safer. And every country that accepts democracy as
a way of life makes our children and grandchildren safer. (Applause.)
This has been a remarkable time in history. It has been an amazing time.
In Afghanistan, millions went to vote in a country where, three years earlier,
people had doomed those people to the -- to the life under the Taliban.
Millions of people voted for a President for the first time in 5,000 years.
It's an amazing moment in the history of mankind. (Applause.) And that
matters. That matters to future generations of Americans because the more free
countries there are in the world, the more likely it is we'll have peace.
The Ukraine voted for a President. The Palestinian people elected Abu
Abbas. And now I believe peace in the greater -- in the Middle East is within
our reach. I know that we'll achieve peace when the Palestinians develop a
truly free, democratic society, which is what we're going to help them
achieve. And then we'll be able to achieve a goal -- two democracies living
side-by-side in peace, Israeli and Palestine. And finally -- (Applause.)
And finally, last Sunday an amazing thing happened in what used to be a
dark and discouraged part of the world. Tyranny was firmly rejected, and the
people of Iraq went to the polls in spite of violence, in spite of the
ambitions of a few. They showed the United States of America, our coalition
and the whole world that deep within the soul of every human being is the
desire to be free. (Applause.)
I was incredibly touched at the moment when the mom of the fallen Marine
hugged the women from Iraq who had been given a chance to vote because of the
sacrifices of this woman's son and people like her. It was a reminder that the
people of Iraq truly appreciate the chance to live in freedom. It was a
powerful moment when the country could see two women from different cultures
embrace for the sake of peace.
We're making progress in Iraq because the Iraqi people do want to be free.
Our strategy is clear. We're going to help the Iraqis defend themselves. We'll
accelerate training. We'll make sure there's a chain of command so that the
troops that are trained can effectively operate. We'll help them stand up a
high-quality security force. And when that mission is complete, and Iraqis
democratic and free and able to defend herself, our troops will come home with
the honor they have earned. And we will be able to look back and say that this
is a part -- a part of a more peaceful future for our grandchildren. You see,
free societies will be peaceful societies. And peace in the greater Middle
East will be a legacy that our generation can be proud of for generations to
I was pleased to see our economy added 146,000 new jobs in the month of
January. That's a good sign. More people are going to work around our country.
The unemployment rate dropped to 5.2 percent. But we shouldn't be content. I'm
looking forward to working with the members of Congress to create the
conditions for continued economic expansion.
Look, I'm worried about a society in which there's too many lawsuits. I
believe all these lawsuits make it hard for people to form capital.
(Applause.) I called upon Congress for legal reform, reasonable, common-sense
legal reform to keep our economy growing. But I also understand what these
lawsuits are doing to health care. Whether it be rural health care or urban
health care, we've got too many lawsuits that are running up the cost of
medicine and running too many good docs out of practice. (Applause.)
We've got to get us an energy plan. We've been talking about it for four
years. Now is the time for Congress to get a good plan to my desk. I'm looking
forward to working with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to
encourage conservation, to encourage renewable sources of energy, whether it
be ethanol, biodiesel, or clean nuclear power. (Applause.)
We're going to spend money on new technologies that will help us leap-frog
the old command-and-control debate, so we can burn coal in clean ways that
people couldn't imagine 20 years ago. I mean, there's things to be moving this
process forward in a practical way. But one thing is for certain; we need an
energy plan to make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
I'm going to submit a budget on Monday. They've been -- the people in
Congress on both sides of the aisle have said, let's worry about the deficit.
I said, okay, we'll worry about it again. My last budget worried about it,
this budget will really worry about it. And I'm looking forward to working
with members of Congress to make tough choices. As I said in the State of the
Union, we're going to eliminate or vastly reduce 150 programs that aren't
meeting needs, aren't meeting priorities and are not getting the job done.
It's time to be wise with the people's money. (Applause.)
Anyway, we got work to do. And I'm looking forward to it. We got a lot of
work to do when it comes to fulfilling the promises of our society, as well. I
talked about Social Security in the State of the Union. Now, that should
signal that we got a problem. Otherwise, most Presidents have shied away from
talking about Social Security -- except to make the benefits better. I see a
problem, and I used time at the State of the Union to speak directly to the
American people about the problem. That's why I've come to Omaha -- besides
saying hello to friends -- is talking about the problem.
And here's the problem. When the Social Security system was designed, the
average life expectancy was about 60 years old and benefits were at a certain
level, and the number of payers into the system were significantly greater
than they are today. As a matter of fact, in 1950, some 14 years after the
system was designed, there were 16 payers into the system for every
beneficiary, as that chart says. And that's important, because the more
beneficiaries there are paying into the system, the more likely it is a
beneficiary is going to get paid.
Secondly, what has changed since then is that we're living longer. The
life expectancy is now 77 years old. And as a result of living longer, you've
got people who have been made promises by the government receiving checks for
a longer period of time than was initially envisioned under Social Security.
Secondly, the benefits that had been promised are increasing, so you've got
more -- and thirdly, baby boomers like me and Hagel and a bunch of others are
getting ready to retire. So you've got more people retiring, living longer,
with the promise of greater benefits.
The problem is, is that the number of people putting money into the system
is declining. So you can see the mathematical problem, right? Greater promises
to more people who are living longer, with fewer payers. That's a problem --
particularly when you start doing the math. And it's summed up by this chart,
that says, in 2018 -- the facts are, in 2018, that the amount of money going
out of Social Security is greater than the amount of money coming into Social
Security. And as you can see from the chart, it gets worse every year. That's
what that red means.
So, like, for example, in 2027, the amount of money required for the
government to come up with to meet the promises is $200 billion above the
payroll taxes collected. And some 13 years later, the system is broke. In
other words, in 2042, it is flat bust. So, because more people are receiving
higher benefits and living longer with fewer people paying into the system,
the system goes into the red in a pretty short order. And every year it gets
worse -- $200 billion in 2027, about $300 billion in 2032. And so it just
accumulates. And if we wait, it gets worse. In other words, it's more costly
to solve the problem. So we have a problem.
And I'm going to spend a lot of time traveling our country talking about
the problem, because I fully understand that in the halls of Congress, if
people do not believe we have a problem, nothing is going to happen. There's
no need to take risk on a solution if you're not willing to address the
THE PRESIDENT: We love free speech in America. (Applause.) I think it's
important for people to be open about the truth when it comes to Social
Security. That's what we're here to talk about. And I also have an obligation
to help come up with solutions. It's one thing for a President to say, we've
got a problem. A President, in my judgment, also needs to come up with
solutions. At the State of the Union, I said, there have been some interesting
suggestions, all of them on the table. I'm willing to work with anybody,
Republican or Democrat or independent, who wants to come in and discuss ways
to solve the problem. Everything is on the table except raising payroll taxes.
I came up with an interesting idea that I want to discuss with you. I know
some of our panelists will discuss it with you, as well. I believe that
younger workers ought to be able to set aside some of their own payroll taxes
in what's called a personal retirement account, and let me tell you why.
(Applause.) I'll tell you why I think it makes sense. First of all, a personal
retirement account will earn a greater rate of return than that which your
money earns in the Social Security trust. That's an important point for people
to understand. If you invest your money in conservative stocks and bonds,
you're likely to get around a 4 percent rate of return, which is greater than
double than the money you're earning right now in the Social Security trust.
And over time, that means your own money will grow faster than that which is
in the Social Security trust. In other words, you'll have more money when it
comes time to retire. That's what that means. And that's an important concept.
And it's going to take a while to explain to people, but it's called the
compounding rate of interest. And it means your money grows. Some people say,
well, sure, that's easy for the President to say, it's going to grow. But what
happens if somebody puts it in the lottery? And I hope it grows really big --
or shoots it in dice, or something like that? Look, there's going to be
guidelines. And that's important for people to understand. If we ever get the
concept of personal retirement accounts started, there will be investment
guidelines. You cannot take risks with your money. In other words, there will
be certain mixes of stocks and bonds that are conservatively constructed to
help get a better rate of return than that which is in the Social Security
trust, and at the same time helps manage risk.
Secondly, people say, well, can you draw it all out at some point? No,
it's like a part of the Social Security system. It's your retirement account,
but you can only draw money out on a regular basis to help complement the
money you'll be receiving from the Social Security system.
Thirdly, there are ways to mitigate risk for market down-turn. But the
truth of the matter is, when you look at the history of the stock market, over
time, the market has always increased with a conservative mix of stocks and
Fourthly, this makes sense to me because it gives people an ownership. We
want people owning more things in America. This is your account. Government
cannot take it away from you. It's a part of your legacy to your family.
And so there's some guidelines to make what I think is a practical plan to
make Social Security more available for younger workers. And it will be phased
in over time. I know you have all these wild estimates of costs -- Bush wants
to spend this, than and the other. Look, this plan needs to start slowly and
gradually so, one, workers can used to it, and, two, we can better afford the
plan within projected cash flow needs.
It makes sense to me. And I want the Congress to seriously debate it. And
one of the things -- one of the reasons I'm traveling the country is not only
to say we got a problem, let's come together and fix it, here's an interesting
part of the solution. I fully recognize a personal retirement account is not
the only thing needed to make -- to solve Social Security permanently. But
it's a part of a solution. And I believe I have a responsibility as someone
who has put the issue on the table to be a constructive voice in coming up
with a solution that will save Social Security for younger workers.
Let me say one other thing, and then we're going to have a discussion.
It's probably hard to tell these panelists are here to be able to talk with
me, talking as much as I am. One of the problems that people in the political
world have is dealing with the issue of our seniors who have already retired.
In other words, seniors hear "Social Security," and they say, really what he's
going to do is take away my check, or part of my check. It is really important
for our senior citizens, those who've retired and those near retirement, to
know nothing changes. When I talk about a Social Security trust going bankrupt
in 2042, there is enough money in the system to take care of the promises for
those who have retired, and those who are near retirement. That's a fact. We
can argue about a lot of other issues, but one fact is certain: Social
Security is in good shape and will meet its promises to those who've retired,
or nearly retired.
The problem exists for younger workers. And that's why, in my State of the
Union, I put this issue in a generational context. I said to Congress, we have
a duty to leave behind a better America for generations to come, and part of
that duty is to make sure the retirement system is sound and solvent.
All right, I've been talking enough. If Laura were here, she'd have said
I've been talking way too much. (Laughter.) By the way, she sends her best
regards. What a fabulous woman she is. She's a -- (applause.) She's doing
Syl Schieber is with us. Syl, where do you live and what do you do?
DR. SCHIEBER: I live in -- just outside of Washington, D.C., in Chevy
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, good.
DR. SCHIEBER: And I have worked on retirement issues for some 30, 35 years
THE PRESIDENT: Wrote a book.
DR. SCHIEBER: And wrote several books on this -- two on Social Security so
far. May write another one some day.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Nonfiction? (Laughter.)
DR. SCHIEBER: I've tried my best. There's a lot of fiction -- a lot of
fiction in this area.
THE PRESIDENT: That's good. Syl is an expert on the subject. In other
words, he's spent a lifetime studying Social Security. I've asked him to come
so he can maybe explain what I just tried to say -- in English. (Laughter.)
Take Texan and convert it to English. (Laughter.) Why don't you let her rip?
Let people know what's on your mind on this issue.
DR. SCHIEBER: Okay, thank you, Mr. President.
* * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Rose Davis. Welcome, Rose. What do you do?
MS. DAVIS: I'm a college professor at Metropolitan Community College.
THE PRESIDENT: Community college -- yes. Big backer, by the way, of
community colleges. I think they're really important. (Applause.)
MS. DAVIS: I teach social science, human relations, and criminal justice.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Thanks. Do you want to be known as "Rose," or
MS. DAVIS: Rose is fine.
THE PRESIDENT: Rose is fine -- good. (Laughter.) You have an issue with
Social Security. Why don't you describe to people your view.
* * * *
THE PRESIDENT: What she's saying is really an interesting point, isn't it?
Mom dies at what age?
MS. DAVIS: She died at 67.
THE PRESIDENT: Sixty-seven, so she really didn't live long enough to take
advantage of the money she had put in the system. And yet, because of
survivors -- and there are survivor benefits, but there's an age limit on
survivor benefits -- the survivors receive nothing. And so mom's lifetime of
savings went into the system to pay for somebody else. And one of the benefits
of personal accounts, a personal retirement account is that you leave
something behind for your children or grandchildren.
And I think it's fair. I think there's a group -- the life expectancy of
certain folks in our country is less than others. And that makes the system
unfair. In other words, if you're dying earlier than expected, the money you
put in the system simply goes to pay somebody else. One of the benefits of an
ownership society is you could decide what to do with your own assets.
Remember, it's your money to begin with. You've worked, t's payroll tax.
MS. DAVIS: That's why it's important to say that you're not lying to the
American people because I'm living this right now.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MS. DAVIS: You're not lying.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right.
You know, one of the interesting things, by the way, again, on personal
accounts -- admittedly, new concept; hard for some to understand; and it's
just going to take a while for people to hear the debate and get used to the
concept. The principles are easy to understand: your money, you own it, you
can pass it on to whoever you want, you get a better rate of return. But it's
been done before. In other words, this isn't the first time the thought of a
thrift savings plan has been advanced. As a matter of fact, federal employees
can now take some of their own money and put it into five different
conservative portfolios of stocks and bonds as a part of their retirement
package. It's an easy statement to say, but something I believe is, if it's
good enough for federal employees, it ought to be good enough for younger
Mary is with us. Mary Mornin. How are you, Mary?
MS. MORNIN: I'm fine.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay, Mary, tell us about yourself.
MS. MORNIN: Okay, I'm a divorced, single mother with three grown, adult
children. I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. First of all, you've got the hardest job in
America, being a single mom.
MS. MORNIN: Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: You and I are baby boomers.
MS. MORNIN: Yes, and I am concerned about -- that the system stays the
same for me.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
MS. MORNIN: But I do want to see change and reform for my children because
I realize that we will be in trouble down the road.
THE PRESIDENT: It's an interesting point, and I hear this a lot -- will
the system be the same for me? And the answer is, absolutely. One of the
things we have to continue to clarify to people who have retired or near
retirement -- you fall in the near retirement.
MS. MORNIN: Yes, unfortunately, yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know. I'm not going to tell your age, but
you're one year younger than me, and I'm just getting started. (Laughter.)
MS. MORNIN: Okay, okay.
THE PRESIDENT: I feel great, don't you?
MS. MORNIN: Yes, I do.
THE PRESIDENT: I remember when I turned 50, I used to think 50 was really
old. Now I think it's young, and getting ready to turn 60 here in a couple of
years, and I still feel young. I mean, we are living longer, and people are
working longer, and the truth of the matter is, elderly baby boomers have got
a lot to offer to our society, and we shouldn't think about giving up our
responsibilities in society. (Applause.) Isn't that right?
MS. MORNIN: That's right.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but nevertheless, there's a certain comfort to know
that the promises made will be kept by the government.
MS. MORNIN: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: And so thank you for asking that. You don't have to worry.
MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I
THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?
MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that
you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)
MS. MORNIN: Not much. Not much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, hopefully, this will help you get you sleep to know
that when we talk about Social Security, nothing changes.
MS. MORNIN: Okay, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great.
Jerry Rempe is with us. Jerry, tell them what you gave me.
MR. REMPE: I came today because I'm married and have three children --
THE PRESIDENT: No, tell them what you gave me as -- to make me look good
at the household.
MR. REMPE: I work for Omaha Steaks, so we presented the President with
Omaha steaks today. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: They know something about beef in this state, isn't that
MR. REMPE: We know a little bit here.
THE PRESIDENT: About beef. That's good thing about Johanns. He knows
something about beef, too. And he'll -- (Laughter.) He'll make sure the
cattlemen, as well as the -- as well as the grain growers and soybean growers
all across the country are well represented in the Ag Department.
Anyway, sorry to interrupt you, but I was just trying to get you kind of a
subtle plug. (Laughter.)
MR. REMPE: We appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
* * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it's interesting -- I want to -- a real interesting
point he made, when our folks were coming up, there wasn't anything -- there
wasn't anything like a 401k. That was just numbers and a letter in the
alphabet. (Laughter.) And his dad, interestingly enough, said, join. In other
words, there's been a shift of attitude in our society over time. The 401k
represents that shift -- where more and more people are saving for their own.
In other words, savings used to be done by third parties. Social Security is
saving by a third party, the federal government. Here, what he's talking about
is the company plans encourage individual savings, empower the individual to
make decisions, had the individual look at the portfolio decisions, had the
statement of the person's savings go directly to the individual on a quarterly
And basically what we're talking about here is helping evolve the Social
Security system, modernize the system to reflect the current way people save.
And your dad was wise to give you that advice.
MR. REMPE: I appreciate it.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, and you were wise to listen --
MR. REMPE: It looks amazing now.
THE PRESIDENT: -- as you now know. What he's also talking about is, over
time, a person's assets grow with the compounding rate of interest -- as
$1,000 earns a 4 percent rate of return, for example, that accumulates over
time. The base is bigger the next year, and the 4 percent means more, and it
continues to grow. And that's what he's witnessing here.
Now, we've got Amanda Temoshek with us. Amanda, thank you for coming. What
do you do?
MRS. TEMOSHEK: I own my own company, which is called Heartland Campaign
THE PRESIDENT: Good -- which does what? Heartland Campaign Management.
MRS. TEMOSHEK: It does fundraising campaigns, consults on fundraising
campaigns for nonprofit organizations.
THE PRESIDENT: For nonprofits -- great, thank you for doing that. You
know, one of the great strengths of the country is the fact that we're a
compassionate nation; many nonprofits exist to help heal broken hearts. And if
you're a part of that effort, thank you for being a soldier in the army of
MRS. TEMOSHEK: Well, you're welcome. I love the opportunity to help the
THE PRESIDENT: I also love the entrepreneurial spirit in America. It's
strong. I mean, the truth of the matter is, a way forward for many minorities
and women is through owning their own business. And we've got to promote
entrepreneurship in America. So, good going.
MRS. TEMOSHEK: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Why are you sitting here? (Laughter.)
MRS. TEMOSHEK: Well, the reason why I'm interested in Social Security --
first of all, because I do own my own business. I'm not only paying my portion
of the Social Security, I'm paying the employer's portion. So I'm paying the
whole portion of Social Security. And I write out that check, myself, right
out of my company checkbook I write that check.
And I was married last year to my husband, Darren.
THE PRESIDENT: Where is he?
MRS. TEMOSHEK: He is right back there.
THE PRESIDENT: Darren, good going. (Applause.) You did well. (Laughter.)
* * * *
THE PRESIDENT: This is an interesting question many young Americans are
asking: will there be benefits available. I don't remember asking that
question when I was your age. I don't think many baby boomers were sitting
around saying to their moms and dads or elected officials, was Social Security
going to be around. We never asked that. Actually, we were asking, are they
going to keep increasing benefits. We never said -- and there was no doubt in
And what's shifted on Social Security -- and I saw this firsthand during
my campaigns for the presidency -- what has shifted is, there are a lot of
younger folks in America who wonder out loud, who come right here on the stage
with the President and say, will the Social Security system not only be around
for me, but will it be around for my children. That is what's shifted in the
debate. Millions of younger Americans wonder whether or not the Social
Security system will be healthy. And once we assure senior citizens nothing
changes, or those who are soon to be -- well, not that soon, but one of these
days be senior citizens -- nothing changes.
The debate should really shift to those who've got the most at stake in
inaction. The status quo is unacceptable to younger workers, and younger
workers understand that in America. (Applause.)
I want to thank our panelists -- did a fine job. (Applause.) Yes, thanks
for coming. (Applause.) I hope you've enjoyed this discussion. I certainly
have. I look forward to -- I like to get out of Washington. It's good to get
out of the Nation's Capital and get out amongst the people. It's -- the
accommodations are nice there in Washington, but it's nice to get moving
around and to be in front of folks. And I'm going to spend a lot of time over
the course of the next couple of months describing the issue of Social
Security in as plain a terms as I can -- not only saying, we've got a problem,
and pointing it out in different charts and facts and figures and getting
experts and other citizens to join me, but also calling Congress to work with
the administration to come up with a solution.
Now, they've said, well, this is a hard issue. Why are you doing this, Mr.
President, it's too hard an issue. Well, we got a job to do. It doesn't matter
how hard the issue is. As a matter of fact, the harder the issue, the bigger
the challenge, and the more exciting it's going to be when we get the job
I want to thank you all for coming. I appreciate you being here. May God
bless our great country. (Applause.)
END 9:27 A.M. CST
SOURCE White House Press Office