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Islanders Hear About Proposed Social Security Reform

March 19, 2005 – As President Bush continues his cross-country campaign to sell the Social Security reform package, Delegate Donna M. Christensen presented facts about it to the St. Thomas chapter of the AARP Saturday.
"The president started out saying we need to reform Social Security. Everyone agrees, but this plan does nothing to save it," said Christensen. "It damages Social Security and cuts benefits by 40 percent."
The plan borrows two trillion dollars over the next 10 years. "The plan raids the trust fund to pay for private accounts damaging the economy in the long run," Christensen said. "We can't take any more damage here."
Denyce Singleton, state Director of AARP, said for many years the agency has been the largest advocate for restructuring Social Security. But Bush's plan, she explained, will weaken the system.
Singleton estimates more than 13,000 people in the territory benefit from Social Security, but "it's hard to pin down the number because it affects widows and children," she said. "Once you carve out the money from Social Security you're putting disabled and young people at risk."
Social Security gives financial protection for retirement, disabilities and premature death. In the Virgin Islands, 20 percent of benefits go to survivors, eight percent to disabled, 7 percent to spouses and 65 percent to retirees.
Christensen calls Social Security a "trumped up crises." Social Security Trustees and the Congressional Budge Office estimate the trust fund will run out of money by 2042 or 2052. In her newsletter dated Feb. 16 the delegate writes "while we have to act now to avert a crisis that is more than 30 years away, we have the time to look at all the approaches to solving the problem and getting it right."
Christensen said we need to stop privatization plans and replenish the trust fund. "I have worked and put money into that fund. It's our money and we need to get it back. And if something happens to us, our children need to get it back," she said. "Savings is a good thing. There are proposals, maybe through tax credits, to promote personal savings."
Christensen encouraged Virgin Islanders to express their concerns to both her and Washington officials, and promised to post lists of members of the Ways and Means Committees on her Web site, (See "www.house.gov/christian-christensen.").
"Sometimes in the territory we feel there is nothing we can do because we don't have a vote," said Singleton. "We have to be as active as the rest of the country."
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