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For the Next Generation

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Shoring up Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is a political problem that can be ironed out if the two parties work together, as opposed to huddling in their respective war rooms to draw out battle plans. The entitlements issue has been particularly explosive over the last several years, and I have no doubt that voters are eager to see their representatives in Washington work more collaboratively. I recall exactly when the first shot of the modern era was fired across the bow. Shortly after I was sworn in to the House in Washington in early 2005, I attended a lunch hosted by President Bush at the White House for the freshman class. The new members were seated at small, round tables. At each table there was a top-level staff member from the administration. I was seated at the President’s table with my Republican colleague from Florida, Connie Mack. The conversation turned from small talk to issues, and I remember being shocked when the President told our table that he intended to take on the issue of privatizing Social Security. He said, “I earned some political capital in this election and I intend to spend it.” I remember thinking to myself that this wasn’t a very prominent part of Bush’s reelection campaign, so how could he think voters gave him political capital to spend on removing seniors’ safety net? After the lunch, the buzz among my Democratic colleagues was intense. This was such a nonstarter for Democrats, and especially for a legislator like me, given all the seniors in my South Florida district. Not only would the notion of privatizing Social Security be an extremely volatile issue, but the President’s ham-handed approach obliterated any opportunity there may have been to build a bipartisan consensus. This is why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made it known that House Democrats ought to be unified and immovable in our opposition to President Bush’s proposed dismantling of Social Security. I was in full agreement with this strategy because while I believe we must take steps to shore up Social Security so we don’t reach a point where the trust fund is exhausted, President Bush went too far, declaring that Social Security was in “crisis” and required drastic action. In actuality, the Social Security Board of Trustees, which issues an annual report on the solvency of the

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8/24/13 1:15 AM

For The Next Generation (Ch. 1)  

Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenges the nation to resolve tough issues for future gene...

For The Next Generation (Ch. 1)  

Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz challenges the nation to resolve tough issues for future gene...