Floor and Committee Statements

Thursday, February 3, 2005

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
Floor Statement on the State of the Union and Social Security
Remarks as Delivered on Senate Floor

Madame President, last night we had the occasion on the House floor to hear a speech from the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States of America--a speech that to me was about two overriding themes--one, freedom, and the other, security--and two primary subjects--one, the war in Iraq and its liberation, and the other, the security of the American people and their retirement.

To the first, I simply say, as eloquent as the President's speech was, as dramatic as his words were, and as many of them as there were, the most powerful message last night was not words, but a picture. For when Janet Norwood embraced Safia, the President stopped speaking, the Chamber erupted, tears flowed, but not a word was said. If the saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words' was ever appropriate, it was on that occasion.

I am very proud of our men and women in the Armed Forces, I am proud of this Congress, I am proud of this President, and I am proud of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and all freedom-loving people.

The second subject the President addressed was Social Security, which is all about freedom and security, and it is the subject about which I will make my few remarks on this morning.

I would like to begin these remarks by asking you to visualize another picture. Think about how powerful Safia and Janet were, and think about this picture. Picture the year 2042 or 2052, if you like. Picture you in your living room or your den. Picture you looking at your son or your daughter and their grandchildren squarely in the eye, and picture explaining to them that when you had the chance 37 years earlier, you did nothing to secure their future.

There are those who say Social Security does not have a crisis today, but it has a big crisis tomorrow. When I entered into my campaign for the Senate, I ended every speech by saying 'I will soon be 60'--and I am 60 now--and the rest of my life is about my children and my grandchildren.'' So it is true about all of us in this room. To do nothing is unacceptable if you visualize that picture 37 years from now, if you look at your daughter or your son or their grandchildren.

I want to talk about Elizabeth Sutton Isakson and Jack Hardy Isakson, both born last year, both of whom will be 37 in 2042 when I would have to give them the 'good' news--if this Congress did nothing--that America's promise on Social Security is gone, that by law their benefits are lowered and, by absolute practice, their taxes will be raised.

I heard someone in opposition to reform last night criticize the President for saying it is their money. They said it is not their money. They said, 'It is my mother's money.' That is what is wrong with the system. We have robbed Peter to pay Paul. We are running out of Peters, and we are getting a greater number of Pauls.

Now, personal accounts and a nest egg in the future are a viable decision that should not be criticized and rejected out of hand. In fact, I will tell you an interesting little fact. Had the United States of America 70 years ago invested the surpluses of the payroll tax paid by the American workers throughout that time, we would not have the problem today. But we robbed Peter to pay Paul.

There are those who say personal accounts are a gamble. Arithmetic is a fact, and facts are stubborn. In the 70-year period since the advent of Social Security, pick any 20 consecutive years that you like and pick any traditional conservative investment model that you like, and in that 20-year period of time, it exceeded the return on Social Security four to five times.

The time value of money is the solution to all problems. Procrastination on the investment of money is a message for disaster. We should not reject this debate out of hand. We should embrace it. We should not reject personal investment; we should encourage it.

Who in this room has not told their children, when we created IRAs, to invest in them because you cannot count on Social Security? Who in this room has not said it? It has been said this morning. I told my children to plan on more because Social Security would not be enough.

The President has said for a modest debt today, we can prohibit a $26 trillion catastrophe 37 years from now by giving younger Americans a choice to do what we do as Members of Congress in the Thrift Savings Plan. We have the opportunity to empower their future and enhance their security.

Yes, there are disciplines we should apply. Yes, there is math that we should run. But facts are stubborn. Had we done as a country, with the surpluses we received, what the President wants to offer voluntarily to younger Americans, we would not be here today.

Facts are stubborn, and pictures are worth a thousand words.

I hope I am here in 2042, and I pray to God that Elizabeth and Jack will be here, too, and they are going to sit in my den in front of my fireplace, and we are going to talk. I am not going to tell them that 37 years before when I had a chance to make their future brighter I said we really did not have a crisis, we really did not need to do a thing.

George W. Bush is a great President for many reasons but, most importantly, because he is willing to look a problem square in the eye regardless of size and make suggestions and solutions for its correction. We owe the American people no less, and I owe Elizabeth Sutton Isakson and Jack Hardy Isakson no less.

I yield the floor.