During the Dartmouth debate, Senator Clinton refused to answer Tim Russert's question on how she would solve the looming Social Security shortfall, and whether raising the cap on Social Security taxes or cutting benefits were on the table. Here's the transcript:
RUSSERT: The chairman of the Federal Reserve, the head of the Government Accountability Office have both said that the number of people in America on Social Security and Medicare is going to double in the next 20 years -- there are now 40 million; it's going to go to 80 million -- and that if nothing is done, we'll have to cut benefits in half or double the taxes. That is their testimony...Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people, "I'm going to tax your income; I'm not going to cap at $97,500. Everyone, even if you are a millionaire is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make."
CLINTON: Well, Tim, let me tell you what I think about this, because I know this is a particular concern of yours. But I want to make three points very briefly.
First, I do think that it is important to talk about fiscal responsibility. You know, when my husband left office after moving us toward a balanced budget and a surplus, we had a plan to make Social Security solvent until 2055.
Now, because of the return to deficits, we have lost 14 years of solvency. It's now projected to be solvent until 2041. Getting back on a path to fiscal responsibility is absolutely essential.
Number two, I think we do need another bipartisan process.
You described what happened in '83. It took presidential leadership, and it took the relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill, to reach the kind of resolution that was discussed. And I think that has to be what happens again, but with a president who is dedicated to Social Security, unlike our current president, who has never liked Social Security. You can go back and see when he first ran for Congress, he was dissing Social Security.
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So when I'm president, I will do everything to protect and preserve Social Security so we can have that kind of bipartisanship.
And, finally, then you can look in the context of fiscal responsibility and of a bipartisan compromise -- what else might be done. But I think if you don't put fiscal responsibility first, you're going to really make a big mistake, because we demonstrated in the '90s, it had a lot to do with moving us toward solvency.
RUSSERT: But you would not take lifting the cap at $97,500 off the table?
CLINTON: Well, I'd take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.
RUSSERT: But Senator Biden said you can't grow your way out of this. And, for the record, when the Clinton administration left office, Social Security was only guaranteed to 2038, not 2055.
CLINTON: There was a plan on the basis of the balanced budget and the surplus to take it all the way to 2055. And we know what happened: George Bush came in, went back to deficits, and has basically used the Social Security trust fund and borrowing from China and other countries to pay for the war.
RUSSERT: So, Senator, a simple question, a simple question: What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say, "We're not going to double the taxes, we're not going to cut benefits in half; I'm willing to put everything on the table, some things on the table, nothing on the table"?
CLINTON: I'm not putting anything on the proverbial table until we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it's a mistake to do that.
"I think it's a mistake" to put "anything on the proverbial table." Read: "campaign mistake." Yes, telling the public what you plan to do to shore up Social Security would require a commitment to cutting benefits, raising taxes, or some combination of the two. There is, by her own decree, nothing on the table. Nothing. What will magically move us "toward fiscal responsibility" if tax increases and/or cuts in government services are "off the table?"
When a person campaigns for the presidential nomination, attends a debate, and is asked a question on one of the most crucial issues that will face the citizens of this country for decades to come, that candidate owes us an answer. Even if it is inconvenient. Even if it will cost votes. We deserve to know where the candidates stand. Hillary Clinton made a decision that answering the question wouldn't work to her political advantage. Barack Obama and others went on record in favor of raising the cap. Clinton dodged, and in her mind, she won that round. In my mind, voters lost, and there is a lingering suspicion that if Senator Clinton is elected, Democrats will have won a battle, only to continue losing the war against unaccountable government – not unlike the Congressional victory in 2006.
Frankly, Senator, I'm damn tired of being played the chump by our elected officials. If you can't level with the American people during a campaign, why should we expect transparency when you are president? Why should we believe your administration would be any less politicized, deceitful, and cronied up than the current one? I want a president I can trust. Is that so much to ask?