Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa.) tore into President Obama on Thursday, declaring that "Never did I ever imagine a Democratic President would be the beginning of the unraveling of Social Security." Harkin was attacking the payroll tax deal, which for the second time, sharply reduces payroll contributions to the Social Security system and replaces them with allocations from general revenues, thus undercutting Franklin Roosevelt's plan for a self-financing insurance system. Following are excerpts from Harkin's statement of the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday:
"I am dismayed that Democrats, including a Democratic President and a Democratic Vice President, have proposed this and are willing to sign off on a deal that could begin the unraveling of Social Security.
"This compounds the mistake Congress made in late 2010 by passing the original payroll tax cut without paying for it. No longer—no longer—can we say Social Security is a program that pays for itself without adding to the deficit. Mixing general revenues into the system will make it easier for those who have long wished to dismantle Social Security to do so in the future.
"Make no mistake about it ... This is the beginning of the end of the sanctity of Social Security. The very real risk is that Social Security will become just another program to be paid for with deficit spending and then in the future perhaps raided to help reduce the deficit.
"I never thought I would live to see the day when a Democratic President and a Democratic Vice President would agree to put Social Security in this kind of jeopardy. Never did I ever imagine a Democratic President beginning the unraveling of Social Security.
"As traditional pensions have fallen by the wayside, as the value of peoples' retirements in 401(k)s has plummeted, Social Security remains the one essential program preventing millions of seniors from plunging into poverty in their retirement years, a program started by a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, further enhanced by future Democratic Presidents. "This, I believe, has been the hallmark and the underpinning of the party I have been proud to belong to. Now this party—this party—the Democratic Party, with a Democratic President, is now beginning the unraveling of Social Security.
"Cutting the payroll tax is a bad idea, a terrible idea. I am embarrassed it is being proposed by a Democratic President and a Democratic Vice President.