Sen. Nelson in position for key role

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

After everyone has a say about how best to fix Social Security, the person best positioned to work out a solution with President Bush and leading national lawmakers is U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska who was born and raised in McCook.

Sen. Nelson placed himself in the key leadership position by: (1) Taking an independent, open-minded position on issues in his first four years of Senate service; and (2) By not taking sides in the early stages of the debate over Social Security.

As a result, President Bush views Sen. Nelson as a possible ally in the president's drive to make changes in Social Security. The big question -- and the one being debated on editorial pages and on TV talk shows across the nation -- is whether the United States should authorize private investment accounts to expand the scope of Social Security.

President Bush says yes. The nation's largest organization for senior citizens -- the American Association for Retired Persons -- says no.

Even though it's still early in the debate, with a firm plan not yet emerging for consideration, it already appears that give-and-take will be needed on both sides. In other words, there needs to be a compromise, and there's no one better suited to craft that legislation and lead the legislative drive for passage than Sen. Nelson.

As the effort begins, three things are paramount. Number one, Social Security must be preserved. For the past 70 years, the program has provided an economic safety net for elderly and disabled Americans, and that support needs to be sustained for future generations.

Number two, changes need to be made soon. The reasons for this are that, on one hand, Americans are living longer, thereby getting more Social Security benefits, and, on the other hand, the birth rate is declining, meaning there are fewer workers to foot the Social Security bill.

And, number three, Americans need to be encouraged to save more on their own, because Social Security alone is not sufficient for retirement now, and will be even less so in the future.

Who can do all those things? We can think of no one better to lead the effort than U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Compromise is needed to come up with a Social Security solution, and no one is better positioned on the national scene to accomplish that than the native McCookite, Ben Nelson.

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