Rep. Clyburn: There's a fair way to reform entitlements

South Carolina congressman explains


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 11, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": I want to stress, folks, when we talk about cuts here, this is a bit of an oxymoron in Washington, as it is maybe everywhere else but Washington.

We're talking about curtailing the growth in programs. So far, no one has talked about reversing those programs.

Senator James Clyburn, fair and balanced, Democrat from the fine state of South Carolina.

That's really the reality, is it not, congressman, that you would almost think that any effort to rein in these entitlements is akin throwing granny off the cliff, when in fact what we're talking about is at best just slowing the growth of them, isn't it?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, D-S.C.: Well, thank you so much for having me, Neil.

Look, there are ways to get this done. The fact of the matter is we have to seek a balance. I don't understand why it is that every time we start talking about reforming so-called entitlements, something that people have paid into, a 19-year-old young man or woman going into the military, 40 years later, they will be 59 and still short of getting Social Security.

So, if they have paid in for over 40 years, why shouldn't they expect to get some kind of fair return? So, this whole notion that they are entitled to something that's free, they are paying into it. Same thing with Medicare.

Now, when we talk about reforming, just like Senator Paul just said, well, you just increase the retirement age. I think it is pretty sanctimonious on the part of anybody who sits in an air-conditioned office all day like we do in the Congress and say that our retirement age will be the same as that person going into a coal mine up in West Virginia every morning and coming out late in the evening, and that person will have the same...


CAVUTO: Yes, but, congressman, aren't we doing the same thing that we do, both parties do, on re-framing the debate to say, we are not talking anything about, you don't deserve Social Security, you don't deserve Medicare, just the way -- the path we're on right now, it's not sustainable or guaranteed that you will.

And unless we make some adjustments now and stagger either the retirement ages or benefit ages or adjust benefits for those of better means, it's just really – we're looking at the writing and the math on the wall. As Bill Clinton said, it is arithmetic.

And it seems like any time someone talks about even just slowing that growth; it's akin to killing grandma. Do you think we can get past that?

CLYBURN: Sure. We're already past that.

That's the not the big issue here. The big issue is, you remember, with arithmetic, you do adding and you also do subtracting and a little multiplication as well. So let's look at some multipliers here when we start talking about this arithmetic.

Let's just take, for instance, why is it necessary or fair for a person making $100,000 a year to be paying Social Security on 50 -- 100 percent of his or her income, another person that makes $200,000 a year will be paying in Social Security only roughly 50 percent of his or her income?

CAVUTO: Fair enough.


CAVUTO: Understood, sir, but then you would be open to means-testing Social Security in that case, right?

CLYBURN: Well, I'm open currently means-testing Medicare. There is a way to look at whether or not people like Warren Buffett, as we say so often, ought to be getting the same Social Security return as the coal miner does. I think that we ought to take a look at that. I started my career in the state government working in the employment security commission. And I can tell you we have a job classification. We had work -- a dictionary of occupational titles. We can do this by work classification, if we want to do a little work. It's very simple just to say...


CAVUTO: In other words then -- just to be clear, congressman -- just to be clear -- I'm sorry -- that you are saying that you cannot always do it by tax increases alone, because I think it was even the Democratic Caucus that concluded that if you were to tax the rich at 100 percent, 100 percent, just take all their money, that that wouldn't keep Medicare going for another five years, beyond five years.

So, obviously, it's got to go beyond just taxes, right?

CLYBURN: Absolutely.


CLYBURN: There is a comprehensive way to do this and be fair and balanced. I like to use that term when I'm talking to you guys on Fox.

CAVUTO: There you go. I like that slogan.


CAVUTO: Congressman, it's always a pleasure, sir. Thank you very, very much, James Clyburn, Democrat from the fine, fine state of South Carolina.

CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.

Content and Programming Copyright 2012 Fox News Network, Inc. Copyright CQ-2012 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.