"This is Congressman Charles Rangel of New York.
"Terrible tragedies such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia and its aftermath remind us how fragile life is. One week ago, we in the Congress lost one of our own, a Congressman named Robert Matsui, who was one of the greatest champions of Social Security in American history.
"Bob Matsui was fiercely committed to protecting the guaranteed bedrock protection of Social Security. He believed in the program and fought to strengthen it for all Americans, because its promise of retirement security acknowledges that Americans are best off if we face the challenges of life together.
"Bob Matsui cared more than just about making sure that Social Security is here for his generation or even the next one. He wanted to make certain that his year-old granddaughter Anna, and all of the generations to come, are blessed by Social Security as past generations have been. Bob was passionate about what he knew was right, while at the same time working to find common ground in order to get things done for the good of the nation. He knew that any significant change in Social Security must be done in a bipartisan way.
"Last month, President Bush called Congressional leaders to the White House and asked us not to criticize his plan or push alternatives until he had a chance to formulate it. That is fair enough. We must respect that. As President, he has the responsibility to come up with a plan. So far, he has not done so, while at the same time his staff has planned a public relations campaign aimed at undermining confidence in the Social Security system. The White House wants Americans to believe that Social Security is heading for an iceberg. They think that, by scaring people, they will help increase support for privatization.
"But the facts prove that there is no imminent crisis with Social Security. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says Social Security can pay full benefits for nearly 50 years. So, there is no crisis. But there is a challenge, because people are living longer.
"Unfortunately, the President's proposal for privatized accounts makes Social Security weaker, not stronger. It drains $2 trillion from the trust fund, leading to drastic cuts in benefits of more than 40 percent.
"Those who support private accounts claim that a miracle will occur in the stock market and these benefit cuts will be made up. That's just not true. Even nonpartisan experts have determined that private accounts will never meet or surpass the currently proposed benefit, even under the most optimistic assumptions. In addition to these cuts, the Administration is talking about borrowing $2 trillion just in the next 10 years to pay the transition costs to privatization. Running up the debt in this way will squeeze future programs and further pressure interest rates to rise and slow our economy.
"I truly believe that Americans want Democrats and Republicans to work together, especially on matters as important as Social Security. We want to work with the President, but to do so, we need his Administration to be open minded to the idea that Social Security works for millions of Americans and it needs to be strengthened, but not radically changed into something that is not social and not security.
"Social Security is something we all paid into. Social Security is not about dependency on big government, it's about how we all rely on each other. We believe it should not be about 'every man for himself' but that America takes care of its own. With the memory of our dear friend Bob Matsui close to our hearts, we Democrats will continue to fight to keep the trust of Social Security, now and in the future.
"This is Congressman Charles Rangel. Thank you so much for listening."