Residents quiz Shelby on Iraq, Social Security reform

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 13, 2006

With one National Guard unit from Marengo County returning home next Monday and Demopolis’ Guardsmen still deployed in the Persian Gulf, the future of the U.S. military presence in Iraq was a fitting topic for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby Thursday.

Maintaining a strong presence, Shelby (R-Ala.) said, was key to success in the Middle East and prevention of terrorism in America.

“I think the worst thing we could do is cut and run like Sen. Ted Kennedy and some others want to do,” Shelby said. “If we cut and run out of Iraq, we will lose credibility all over the world and people that are killing us over there will be here.”

Email newsletter signup

Naturally, Shelby said, everyone would like to see the soldiers come home. But, it is important to maintain a presence until Iraq is back on its feet.

“We don’t want to stay there, but we can’t be run out,” Shelby said. “I think the president is absolutely right in that regard.”

Marengo County resident Stanley Ferguson said he agreed with the need to prevent terrorism, but was concerned about government spending to support the effort. Ferguson said his greatest concern was the lack of suitable Social Security funding for people who desperately need it.

“I am not against the war, but it is hard for me to understand why we can spend $500 million on a war overseas to help people that have been fighting forever,” Ferguson said. “I had a friend who worked 23 years, had to take medical retirement and now she has to choose between buying medicine and food.”

Social Security, Shelby said, was doomed from the beginning. Shelby said the system-which was launched as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal-should have been handled differently to help funds grow rather than operate on a pay in, pay out basis.

“The money was paid in and it was not reinvested to make money,” Shelby said. “We would probably have been better off in the Roosevelt years when it first began to keep it away from Congress and the president and have bonafide trustees to invest it over the years and make it sound, but we have never done that. It could have been run like a private pension fund.”

Unfortunately, Shelby said, most people 30 years old and below don’t anticipate Social Security being a factor in their lives. He said it was important to focus their attention on elderly citizens and help them as much as they could.

“Most of the younger people know that their chances of drawing Social Security benefits like their parents and grandparents are slim and none,” Shelby said. “A lot of them are making provisions for that, but at the same time, we can’t turn our backs on the older people.”

Local resident and Silver Haired Legislature representative Drew Johnson said he would like to see Democrats and Republicans attempt to work together to find a solution to the Social Security problem to keep the program alive.

“We would like to see you get together on Social Security, not for me and the older folks, but for our children,” Johnson said. “I would like for it to be based on actuary principal and if you guys don’t do it, when is it going to be done?”

In this year’s budget, Shelby said $2.4 trillion would be spent. Of that number, 21 percent will go to Social Security, 19 percent goes to national security, 12 percent goes to Medicare, 8 percent will go to Medicaid, 7 percent goes to interest on the debt and 19 percent goes to discretionary spending.

Shelby said once again, the budget would not be balanced. He said Congress was

cutting the deficit, but adding to the debt, and he would like to see a mandatory balanced budget directive.