This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," May 2, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Exactly what is rich today?
If you look at the president's latest plan to secure our retirement benefits, you might be surprised, because, according to one nonpartisan think tank in Washington, anyone earning a little bit more than $58,000 a year will be fronting a big chunk of the benefit cuts under the president's plan. Seems it is taking less and less, then, to get hit with more and more these days.
With us now, a big critic of this plan, but not for the reasons you think. Democratic Congressman of New York Charlie Rangel, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee (search).
Congressman, good to have you.
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL, D-N.Y.: Good to be back.
CAVUTO: You don't like this plan. Why not?
RANGEL: Well, the whole idea the president has, whether you are talking about private accounts (search) or whether you're talking about means testing, is to get rid of it. Believe me, old folks know that when you make it a welfare program, you can forget about it.
And, as long as it's something where it is universal, where everyone pays in and everyone gets back a reasonable amount of money, then you got a national program. Roosevelt knew that when he started it. If you want to help the poor, help them. But you don't need Social Security (search) for it.
CAVUTO: So, wait a minute. So, you keep the same benefits for the well-to-do, who may not need Social Security?
RANGEL: Like you started, who is well-to-do? If we were talking about millionaires that don't need it, don't miss it, that's something different. But you had $58,000. If you make over $20,000, you get a benefit cut.
CAVUTO: All right, but my point is, Congressman, many on the left have been saying of this president, your private accounts thing is just a sop thing to the rich. Make the rich sacrifice.
Now he's saying, you don't even have to be rich. As low as $58,000, I'll have you sacrifice a little bit, and you're still not satisfied.
RANGEL: The private accounts were not for the rich. It was to dismantle Social Security.
First, it costs $2 trillion for the transition when you take out of Social Security and put it into the private funds. But assume that that's a debt that the generations later would have to pay, and you could swallow that.
But while he says, I would like to have for Social Security beneficiaries the same type of thing you guys in Congress have for yourselves, forget it. We have got thrift funds. It's not connected with Social Security. It's not connected with that.
CAVUTO: I know that. But you have got a choice. Most Americans don't, Congressman.
RANGEL: They don't have a choice.
CAVUTO: You have a choice.
RANGEL: You bet your life, but he's not giving that to the beneficiary.
As soon at program goes in effect, there's a 40 percent loss of benefits because you change the formula that's going from wages to price.
CAVUTO: Would you argue that Social Security, as it stands now, Congressman, cannot survive? Either the president is right on scaling back some benefits, maybe offering private accounts, or you guys might be right by saying to sock it to the rich, but something has got to be done.
RANGEL: I would agree with you. But it's not a crisis.
CAVUTO: What would you do? Tell me two things Charlie Rangel would do.
RANGEL: The first thing I would do is get my hands on some Republicans and sit down and saying, Charlie Rangel and the Democrats can't do this. Assuming I have a Democrat president, Democratic Senate, I would say, listen, we have got to do something about Social Security. We have a moral obligation to do it.
CAVUTO: But you're not. You haven't said that. Your party has just sat this issue out. So, this president comes on board, says Social Security is in trouble. I'm asking regular folks to pay for it. I'm asking the rich to pay for it. I'm asking people to make sacrifices. He has proposed ideas, and your party continually shoots him down.
RANGEL: I met with the president as the senior member of the committee that has jurisdiction. I met him with the White House last week.
He told me what a wonderful job he did with 60 cities in 60 days. I said, Mr. President, if that is so, the press hasn't been very kind to you.
CAVUTO: But don't your constituents have the right of choice? Don't they have the right to invest part of their money, if they so...
RANGEL: It is so clear that you don't understand this program.
CAVUTO: Do they have that right? No, no, no. Do they have that right?
RANGEL: They don't under the law, you see, because it's a mandate that it goes into...
CAVUTO: Change the law.
RANGEL: If you change the law and you have them to have the right to invest every investment that they make, every profit that they make, reduces their Social Security benefit. If, at the end of the day...
CAVUTO: But you do argue that Social Security needs fixing?
RANGEL: No question about it.
CAVUTO: You do argue that, eventually, it's going to go bankrupt if we don't do something?