LeRoy Collins Commentary 43

Commentary #43
23 May 2007

SENATOR MARTINEZ
HOSTS THE CONCORD COALITION'S
FISCAL WAKE-UP TOUR

To my friends and associates,........attached is a recent invitation I received from U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) to participate in a very topical discussion affecting all Americans (and immigrants). I have no idea who else is being invited to this function, but I plan to be there.....playing both offense and defense:

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May 22, 2007

Dear Friend,

We are just eight days away from the Fiscal Wake-Up Tour.

On Wednesday, May 30 at 1:00 pm, I am hosting a substantial discussion on the state of our nation's long term fiscal policy including Social Security and Medicare and opportunities for reform. Given that federal entitlement programs consume more than half of annual federal spending and are currently experiencing tremendous growth, I think you'll find this a fiscally alarming situation that Congress simply must address. But we can't do it without your help and input.

At the current expansion rate, federal entitlement programs are unsustainable unless dramatic changes occur. That is why I am inviting you to participate in this upcoming discussion. To ensure a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, we have to begin a nationwide dialogue and know what options are on the table.

With great assistance from USF President Dr. Judy Genshaft, the discussion will be led by the non-partisan Concord Coalition and moderated by USF Distinguished Professor Dr. Susan MacManus. This event will feature U.S. Comptroller General David Walker and guest speakers from the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation. While these panelists might differ on proposed solutions, all agree the magnitude of the problem demands action.

Sincerely,

Mel Martinez
United States Senator

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My offensive plans acknowledge that the entitlements in this country seem to be surging out of control (e.g. Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants, U.S. Citizenship for all babies born in the U.S. albeit to illegal immigrants, inefficient handling of medical records in a misguided deference to "privacy," more Medicare/Medicare beneficiaries yet relatively fewer young taxpayers, etc.).

My defensive playbook will include protection for Veterans' benefits, which already consume $75B/yr to fund the US Department of Veterans' Affairs infrastructure of healthcare, benefits, and allowances. I currently head the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs and am a passionate advocate for Veterans' benefits and services.

The difference between various entitlements are subtle to some, and quite obvious to others, depending upon what group you occupy. From my perspective, our Nation's Veterans have EARNED their benefits, having answered the Nation's call to service when our country was threatened, been deprived of time with their families, and sacrificed their personal plans, and sometimes their lives. Their service enabled all other Americans to live under a banner of freedom and self-expression.

While all paid into Social Security during their productive years, that system was never conceived as a pay-in for a guaranteed personal annuity for each individual payor's later life. It was simply a tax on those paying, to support those no longer paying because they had lived longer than the age specified for receiving benefits.

While we can debate this issue forever, and grouse over the details, the fact is that we can see a trainwreck up ahead and all of us are going to be involved. While I have been paying into Social Security since I had my first paper route in 1944, I cannot use that as an excuse to claim a pension, because all that money I paid in over those years was paid out to beneficiaries throughout those same years.

My purpose here is to invite your constructive suggestions for the future (not your complaints!) re this matter of future entitlements, so I can make sure your points of view are included in the discussion. The issue is so profound, I am thankful Sen. Martinez is including us in the formulation of his opinions. This is how a Democracy is supposed to work. If you make it more than one page, I am not likely to get it all read in time; I look forward to your timely response.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.
www.leroycollins.org


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