Press Release
Friday, August 13, 1999
WASHINGTON -- The Concord Coalition has placed a full-page advertisement in this Sunday's New York Times (August 15, 1999) urging President Clinton and Members of Congress not to squander the surplus, and to fix Social Security and Medicare first.


         The ad is signed by Concord Co-Chairs and former Senators Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), and Concord President Peter Peterson, former Secretary of Commerce.  Excerpts from the ad follow:


“Until recently, you seemed ready to move on to a bigger challenge:  tackling the vast deficits that still loom over America's long-term future.  Cost-cutting reform of Social Security and Medicare was advancing to the top of the legislative agenda.


But then something happened.  The budget process gridlocked, and partisan politics returned with a vengeance.  Not only did entitlement reform sink back to the bottom of the agenda, but this year both parties are planning to squander the very surpluses that would make reform workable and bearable.  In short, you seem bent on undoing what you've achieved.


We believe you are about to make a big mistake.  Your current plans to spend the surplus are bad economics.  They are based on unrealistic assumptions.  And, by enriching ourselves at the expense of future generations, they betray the principle of fiscal stewardship.


Absent reform, the annual bill for federal retirement benefits is certain to explode.  Near-term surpluses that go to pay off our debt and increase national savings help to restrain the future burden, both by reducing debt service payments and by expanding the size of tomorrow's economy.  Any cut in surpluses will trigger even bigger tax hikes (or last-minute draconian benefit cuts) down the road. 


The Concord Coalition asks you, America's leaders, to steer clear of feel-good policies you know are wrong.  We respectfully suggest that you go back to the drawing board, re-engage the issue of long-term entitlement reform, and build consensus around a plan that will put Social Security, Medicare, and other senior benefit programs on a sustainable path.  Until you do, you should save every surplus dollar that comes your way.  By ‘save' we mean either use the surpluses to buy back the national debt or commit them to a new system of personally owned retirement accounts.


Let's stop pretending these surpluses belong to us.  Conservatives say government should return ‘our money' to the people, while liberals say government should spend ‘our money' on behalf of the people.  The fact is, it's not our money at all.


Back when the budget was in deficit, some said fiscal responsibility was too painful.  You knew better and acted with candor and courage.  Today, with the unified budget in surplus, at least for the moment, some say fiscal responsibility is no longer necessary.  Now as before, you know better – and we hope you act accordingly,” the ad says.