WASHINGTON--The Concord Coalition Citizens Council published a pamphlet today that will help everyday citizens ask candidates for Congress vital questions about the federal budget, Social Security, and Medicare during the 1998 campaign season.
The pamphlet, titled "10 Questions Voters Should Ask Their Candidates" includes questions about the federal budget, specific Social Security reform options, Medicare reform, and an extra credit question asking candidates to explain why the national debt continues to rise while the federal government is supposedly running a budget surplus.
"Many candidates hope they will not be asked tough questions about the federal budget, Social Security, and Medicare during the campaign season," said Concord Coalition Citizens Council Executive Director Martha Phillips. "Well-informed voters can use exchanges with the candidates to find out where they really stand on some of the hardest choices that face our nation, or whether the candidates have thought about these difficult issues at all."
The "10 Questions Voters Should Ask Their Candidates" include:
- 1. In order to meet the spending limits established in the
Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Congress will need to reduce total
discretionary spending over the next four years by 10% after inflation.
If you are elected, what cuts would you propose?
2. This year's unified budget surplus, and the projected surpluses over the next 10 years, are only possible by counting surplus Social Security income. Given this fact, do you support using the budget surplus for either tax cuts or new spending programs?
3. Do you support raising the payroll tax rate or the wage base on which the tax applies as part of a comprehensive Social Security reform plan?
4. Do you support gradually raising the retirement age as part of a comprehensive Social Security reform plan?
5. Do you believe that the present method of calculating annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) overstates inflation, and if so, should the COLA be scaled back as part of a comprehensive Social Security reform plan?
6. Do you support applying a graduated means test to benefits as part of a comprehensive Social Security reform plan?
7. Many people are suggesting that workers would have higher retirement income, and families would be better able to acquire some wealth, if they were allowed or required to save even a small portion of their Social Security taxes in individually owned accounts. Do you believe that such accounts should be part of a comprehensive Social Security reform plan?
8. If it is decided in the future that individual accounts should play a role in Social Security--no matter how small or large--what safeguards would you recommend against risk and depletion of assets?
9. A bipartisan Medicare Commission is currently meeting. Since most experts agree that Medicare is in worse financial shape than Social Security, what reforms would you recommend to the Commission?
10. The nation's personal savings rate continues to decline. Since economic growth depends on productivity gains, which in turn depend on investment capital, what would you support to encourage Americans to save more?
EXTRA CREDIT: Despite all the talk about budget surpluses, the national debt continues to go up. Please explain why.
Each Concord question is followed by background information. "Some candidates might try to get by with glib, well-rehearsed 15-second 'sound bites' instead of giving detailed, specific answers that put issues clearly out on the table," said Phillips. "The background information will allow voters to ask good questions and know when they have gotten a simplistic or evasive answer."
According to Concord Coalition Citizens Council National Field Director Harry Zeeve, the "10 Questions" pamphlet will be distributed to voters in all 50 states by grassroots members of the Council. "Our grassroots members know they must change the political wind direction in Washington," said Zeeve. "Voters must challenge candidates to put the national interest ahead of any short-term political gain."
The Concord Coalition Citizens Council, a non-partisan grassroots citizen organization, believes that the federal budget should be balanced without using the Social Security surplus and that America should begin to prepare now for the fiscal challenges our country will face once the huge "baby boom" generation leaves the workforce and begins to collect Social Security and Medicare benefits.