Social Security not broke -- Nelson

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Despite all the rumors floating around regarding the solvency of federally funded retirement, the Soc-ial Security trust fund will never be bankrupt, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson told a group of McCook residents at the Bieroc Cafe this morning.

"Social Security isn't broke," he said. "It won't ever be broke."

Nelson told the group that in the worst case, recipients will receive 75 to 83 percent of their benefits.

While his choice would have been to concentrate on other issues, he said he wouldn't attack President George Bush. "I would have preferred to deal with health care -- but he won the election."

Nelson said he questions the current plans to address the possible deficit in Social Security through future spending. With the current federal deficit, "we have to ask if that's what we really want."

He told the group the Senate is continuing to work on both water quality and quantity issues. Those issues are critical to the State of Nebraska, but no more so than Southwest Nebraska, he told the group.

Dealing with federal "alphabet agencies" is never easy, but he has been working on addressing the question of how to go about changing rules that government agencies have implemented.

He said he is exploring ways to be a partner with both the state and cities, in addressing problems of water quality and quantity.

In response to a question from Dr. Michael Chipps, president of Mid Plains Community College Area, Nelson said one step in allowing for a draw down of troops in Iraq has been completed, one is in the works and the other may be a way down the road.

The first step, the initial election in Iraq was one of those steps.

The next step, a second election and the development of a constitution that will address the rights of all parties in Iraq, is in the works.

The last step will be the most difficult, he said.

That involves training enough Iraqi special operations forces to fight against the insurgency.

While there have been nearly 200,000 Iraqis trained by special forces, those troops were trained for law and order and not for dealing with terroristic activities.

To date there have only been about 4,500 people trained for special operation forces and more are needed.

The question that remains, Nelson said, is how many troops are enough.

The U.S. did well when it initially invaded Iraq, Nelson said. But America wasn't equipped to provide law and order after the initial war was won. America lost the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of many Iraqis. Now, he said, there is a mindset that a least the dictatorship was able to keep law and order. Until something is accomplished to get more Iraqis trained to fight the insurgency, that distrust will remain.

"We know at the end of the day we have to win that battle and if we want to win the battle, the Iraqis have to win the battle."

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