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Social Security is focus of forum

April 18, 2005|by DAVE MCMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - The first of two sessions of a forum to examine the problems facing the country's Social Security system got under way Sunday night at Shepherd University.

Two national experts on the issue - economist Allen W. Smith and Cindy Hounsell - appeared before about 87 people at the Frank Center.

Smith, who also will make an address at tonight's session, has appeared on CNN and wrote a weekly column on the economy. Smith taught economics at Eastern Illinois University for 30 years and since his retirement has written books titled "The Looting of Social Security: How the Government is Draining America's Retirement Account" and "The Alleged Budget Surplus, Social Security, and Voodoo Economics."

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Hounsell, executive director of the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, talked about the effects of Social Security on women and families.

Virginia Graf, a Charles Town, W.Va., resident who helped develop the forum, said she felt it was important to have such a discussion given all the talk about social security possibly going bankrupt.

"I thought gee, how could that be? I thought we should find out about Social Security," said Graf, treasurer of the Jefferson County Organization of Democratic Women, one of six organizations sponsoring the forum, which will continue tonight at the Frank Center at 7 p.m. The event is free to the public.

The forum is designed to examine how the money problems facing Social Security developed and what the solutions might be, Graf said.

Smith said the federal government has borrowed $1.7 trillion from the Social Security program and spent it in other areas.

Although the federal government says it has borrowed the money, there is no plan to pay it back, Smith said.

"I say it's been taken and spent," Smith said.

Unlike President Bush's plan to borrow between $2 trillion and $3 trillion to launch his Social Security privatization plan, Smith is recommending that the federal government pay back the $1.7 trillion that has been borrowed and invest the money in marketable treasury bonds.

Smith said under his plan, the Social Security trust fund would have the assets it will need to continue paying full benefits to the public until 2042.

Under the current system, there will not be enough money to pay benefits in the year 2041, Smith said.

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