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Party chairmen Dwight Pelz, Kirby Wilbur spar at City Club forum

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on May 5, 2011 at 11:31 am with 6 Comments »
May 5, 2011 4:16 pm

The state Democratic Party chairman, Dwight Pelz, and Republican Party chairman, Kirby Wilbur, joined in a rare joint question-and-answer session Wednesday evening organized by the City Club of Tacoma.

Pelz criticized U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan and other GOP ideas going back decades, saying Republicans want to end popular social programs like Social Security and Medicare. Not so, Wilbur said.

Pelz said the Ryan plan goes in the wrong direction by cutting tax rates, contributing
to the deficit:

Dwight Pelz


The fact is, Republicans love deficits, because when the country is broke, they can argue that we can no longer afford Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public
employee unions in Wisconsin, or compassion for the poor.

“Kirby, this is my present to you: I think we should raise taxes” to fund government programs, Pelz said. “You’ll have fun with that.”

“I will,” Wilbur said.

Wilbur called for changes in Social Security benefits, saying the program’s “pyramid scheme” doesn’t pencil out for a modern era”s longer lifespans:

Mock the Ryan plan, but it’s a plan, a place to start this discussion. We need entitlement reform. See, there’s a problem with Social Security. It was based on the idea that they’d start paying retirement at 65 when the average age was 62 and when the average American family had about four children. It was a pyramid scheme, plain and simple. … Americans aren’t having children like we did. The pyramid has
reversed. We’re not dying at 62, we’re dying at 80 and 85.

Kirby Wilbur

The pair touched on the slow budget negotiations in Olympia, with Wilbur blaming House Democrats and Speaker Frank Chopp. Wilbur said the Senate is “ready to go” on a balanced budget and the House is holding it up. He said House leaders seem to be in no hurry.

He didn’t criticize the substance of either budget. It might be hard for Republicans to make political hay of the Legislature’s work this year, since members of their own party are helping write the Senate plan.

But GOP involvement will also make it harder for Democrats to cast Republicans as obstructionists. Asked about writing the Senate budget in a bipartisan way, Pelz allowed that it was a good idea but quickly turned to the national news, criticizing Republicans in other state capitals and D.C. for being partisan.

Barring major surprises in the budget endgame, I’m guessing both parties might tend to avoid Olympia in their campaign talking points.

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. Wilbur’s comments about Social Security are quite simply false. While I can’t blame him since they’re so widespread, the system works very similarly to the way the way it was designed.

    The most common myth is that life expectancy is driving the problem. In reality, once you were past the age of 5 in the 20’s and 30’s, life expectancy was very similar. Why is that important? Children didn’t factor into the actuarial tables when SS was designed.


    Further, the worker to retiree ratio hasn’t changed dramatically for several decades. It’s at 3:1 and has been below 4:1 since the 60’s.


    Rather than following Reagan’s example and making adjustments to save SS, Ryan destroys these necessary and successful programs. Probably why 2/3 of the country opposes it.

  2. hortonpeak says:

    Someone who thinks debating someone who does not. I shall let others decide who is who.

  3. Kirby Wilbur says:

    Derek, of course children factor in, because it’s the children of the retirees who are paying for the benefits. Less children, less paid in. And, there is a significant difference in costs and outlays if the average recipient is receiving benefits for 5 years or 25 years. More paid out. Less in, more out spells serious trouble. And, the Ryan plan doesn’t destroy these programs, they try to save them. Think, don’t just knee jerk react.

  4. Hi Kirby,

    Yes, children factor in. But only the ones that reach working age. That’s where the worker-to-beneficiary ratio comes in and yes it’s down as I said. But only incrementally so.

    You cited the dramatic increase in life expectancy as the cause of our problems. That simply is not true since most of the gains in life expentancy were in child mortality. It was a heck of a lot more common to die under the age of 5 back then than it is today. While that increases the mean, it doesn’t affect the system. If you reached adulthood back in the 20’s and 30’s, you were likely to live about as along as you are today. In other words, the average recipient isn’t receiving benefits for a dramatically longer period of time as you claimed.

    All that definitely warrants changes to the system, much like Reagan advocated. You and Greenspan advocated a large tax increase to close the SS deficit. But Ryan’s plan goes way too far, particularly by ending Medicare as we know it.

  5. Argh, sorry… that last paragraph got mangled when I cut and paste it. Supposed to say “All that definitely warrants changes to save the system. Reagan and Greenspan advocated a large tax increase to close the SS deficit. But Ryan’s plan goes way too far, particularly by ending Medicare as we know it.”

    Apologies for confusion.

  6. Chris B says:

    The ratio was 3.4 in 2000, and 3 in 2009, a 13% change. This is statistically significant.
    Additionally, the baby boomer generation starts turning 65 in 2011. The ratio will likely continue this downward trend and magnify the effects.
    The individual Social Security contribution was lowered 2% this year. This was championed by President Obama in “The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010″
    It’s time for the ideologues to stand down and be reasonable. This system is broken. Don’t point fingers and accuse people of hateful things because they recognize the system is broken and are trying to fix it.
    Look up the history and the pitfalls of Social Security were known before the law took effect.

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