Keeping Promises to Seniors

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by Ron Paul

With our country’s finances stretched thin, our credit limit fast approaching, and our currency inflated to the breaking point, there is no indication yet of any urgency on the part of Congress to rein in spending. The predictable answer to the government’s voracious spending habits is this week’s proposal by some Democratic Congressional leaders for tax increases to pay for operations in Iraq . Here at home, however, there are promises our seniors heavily rely upon. We must keep these promises.

An analysis of the Social Security “Trust Fund” shows we are not doing a credible job of keeping these promises. Official reports show the trust fund having assets of $2.1 trillion. In reality, those dollars are just IOUs the government is writing to itself when it borrows from the fund to spend on unrelated programs. There are no real assets in the Social Security Trust Fund. This is similar to taking money out of your savings account, spending it, then replacing it with an IOU to yourself, and calling that IOU an asset. In addition, this money we owe to our seniors is not even included in official budget deficit figures. In fiscal year 2006 alone, $185 billion was borrowed from Social Security.

The official deficit was reported to be $248 billion. The actual deficit for 2006 would be $433 billion when combining the two. This sort of accounting would land private sector executives in prison for fraud. Yet this is done every year by the federal government. The truth is that while politicians in Washington differ about what programs to spend Social Security money on, they are united in wanting to spend it on something other than benefits for seniors. This approach can continue only until Social Security stops running “surpluses” the government can raid. Trustees of Social Security estimate this will happen in 2017. At that time, the amount owed to the Trust Fund will be between $4 trillion and $5.2 trillion, depending on the economy.

When that day of reckoning comes, there will no longer be “excess” payroll tax receipts available to prop up government spending, and the risk of financial crisis will be significant. Instead of forward thinking solutions, politicians are discussing alarming proposals, such as an agreement with Mexico to let their citizens collect social security money intended for our seniors. This would break the bank even sooner. But, current Members of Congress will no longer be in office to face the wrath of seniors and their families when the trust fund goes bankrupt. Instead, they will be retired and enjoying their own plush Congressional pensions. I have been working to reverse this trend. My Social Security Preservation Act, HR 219 would make sure this Trust Fund has real assets such as certificates of deposit in FDIC-insured institutions so that in 2017 and beyond, Social Security payments would continue for those who are depending on them. Congress must take action now, so we can keep the promises we made to our seniors.

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Congressional Control of Health Care is Dangerous to Children

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by Ron Paul

This week Congress is again grasping for more control over the health of American children with the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Parents who think federally subsidized health care might be a good idea should be careful what they wish for. Despite political rhetoric about a War on Drugs, federally-funded programs result in far more teenage drug use than the most successful pill pusher on the playground. These pills are given out as a result of dubious universal mental health screening programs for school children, supposedly directed toward finding mental disorders or suicidal tendencies. The use of antipsychotic medication in children has increased fivefold between 1995 and 2002.

More than 2.5 million children are now taking these medications, and many children are taking multiple drugs at one time. With universal mental health screening being implemented in schools, pharmaceutical companies stand to increase their customer base even more, and many parents are rightfully concerned. Opponents of one such program called TeenScreen, claim it wrongly diagnoses children as much as 84% of the time, often incorrectly labeling them, resulting in the assigning of medications that can be very damaging. While we are still awaiting evidence that there are benefits to mental health screening programs, evidence that these drugs actually cause violent psychotic episodes is mounting. Many parents have very valid concerns about the drugs to which a child labeled as “suicidal” or “depressed,” or even ADHD, could be subjected.

Of further concern is the subjectivity of diagnosis of mental health disorders. The symptoms of ADHD are strikingly similar to indications that a child is gifted, and bored in an unchallenging classroom. In fact, these programs, and many of the syndromes they attempt to screen for, are highly questionable. Parents are wise to question them. As it stands now, parental consent is required for these screening programs, but in some cases mere passive consent is legal. Passive consent is obtained when a parent receives a consent form and fails to object to the screening. In other words, failure to reply is considered affirmative consent. In fact, TeenScreen advocates incorporating their program into the curriculum as a way to by-pass any consent requirement.

These universal, or mandatory, screening programs being called for by TeenScreen and the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health should be resisted. Consent must be express, written, voluntary and informed. Programs that refuse to give parents this amount of respect, should not receive federal funding. Moreover, parents should not be pressured into screening or drugging their children with the threat that not doing so constitutes child abuse or neglect. My bill, The Parental Consent Act of 2007 is aimed at stopping federal funding of these programs. We don’t need a village, a bureaucrat, or the pharmaceutical industry raising our children. That’s what parents need to be doing.

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The Sunlight Rule

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by Ron Paul

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Indeed some of the most malignant growth of our government has been nurtured under a cover of darkness. Literally, in the dark hours of the morning at the end of the year, it has become tradition for the Appropriations committee to rush the famous omnibus bill to the floor for a vote, mere hours after it is introduced. The vote took place at 4 am the last time an omnibus spending bill was before us. We had all of 4 hours to deliberate on almost 1400 pages of important legislation.

My colleagues somehow found this acceptable, however, and the bill passed 212-206. The bill for the Expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was also rushed to the floor with little time to examine the lengthy text of the legislation. If approved by the Senate this measure would increase taxes by an additional $53.8 billion over 5 years and further extend the federal government’s reach into the healthcare of American citizens. Similar processes were followed for raising the minimum wage, providing funding for stem cell research and implementing the 9-11 conference.

Of course, the most well-known example of this phenomenon might be the Patriot Act. Legislators passed the 300+ page bill less than a day after it was introduced, many out of an urgency to do something. But we are sent to Washington to make informed decisions on public policy. The very least constituents expect is that their elected representatives read the legislation citizens will be subject to, and taxed for. And once they have read it, to weigh the constitutionality and the merits of the legislation. How can lawmakers possibly do that without reasonable time allotted?

This has long been a concern of mine, and for this reason I have reintroduced The Sunlight Rule. (H.RES 63) This proposed rule stipulates that no piece of legislation can be brought before the House of Representatives for a vote unless it has been available to members and staff to read for at least ten days. Any amendments must be available for at least 72 hours before a vote. The Sunlight Rule provides the American people the opportunity to be involved in enforcing congressional rules by allowing citizens to move for censure of any Representative who votes for a bill brought to the floor in violation of this act. So far I have two co-sponsors. It is my belief that this simple new rule could greatly disinfect the House of the creeping, insidious growth, merely by shining the light on legislation before it is voted on. We need time to think before we enact. The American people deserve at least this much from their Congress.

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