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Letter to the Editor

Washington Post

I was a staff member for the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York and provided him with advice on Social Security reform in 1983. I am tired of seeing his views distorted for political purposes by Republican supporters of individual Social Security accounts.

The latest display of such political revision was in Robert D. Novak's March 11 op-ed. While describing the reform plan of Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), Mr. Novak said that price indexing of benefits was "long advocated by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan." That is false.

Mr. Moynihan's proposal involved lowering the post-retirement cost-of-living increase to account for a well-known upward bias in the consumer price index. His plan would have reduced benefits compared with current law, but it would have kept the same initial benefits (compared with wages) for future retirees. Mr. Bennett's proposed shift to price indexing would lower initial benefits for future retirees.

Mr. Novak's mischaracterization of Mr. Moynihan's position follows representations by a number of Republican House and Senate members that he favored using a portion of the payroll tax to create individual accounts in the manner that they have proposed. In fact, Mr. Moynihan did advocate small voluntary individual accounts -- but along with some benefit cuts and sufficient future tax rate increases to achieve his objective of returning the system to pay-as-you-go financing. Unlike Republican proposals, his plan would not have reduced the size of the program other than by his benefit cuts, nor would it have entailed transition costs.

The attempt to transform the late senator into a supporter of the Republican plan to undermine Social Security does a disservice to the memory of one of the country's staunchest and most articulate defenders of the Roosevelt legacy.


Chevy Chase

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For Immediate Release: 
March 15, 2005