Views from South Georgia. - U.S. Rep. Kingston gets an earful about Bush's privatization plan at question-and-answer sessions.
"If there's one thing I learned from these town halls, it's that the First Amendment is alive and well," Kingston has commented at a couple of the meetings.
The congressman has a well-produced PowerPoint presentation, and his "stump speech" goes something like this:
The solvency of Social Security, while not in crisis as depicted by President Bush, will become a problem as more baby boomers head into retirement, Kingston says.
"A crisis is when my house is burning down. A problem is when termites are eating at the foundation."
By 2018, it's estimated that Social Security's foundation will begin to crumble. The system will pay out more than it takes in. Fewer workers will be supporting more retirees.
And that will jeopardize benefits for future generations, who could lose one-third of the payouts now promised them.
Kingston says he's not convinced Bush's proposal to allow private investment accounts is a panacea. The plan would allow workers to divert a portion of their social security contributions into personal accounts, but critics have wondered how that would solve the looming shortfall in the Social Security trust fund.
In fact, the idea has raised more questions than can be answered right now because there is no bill before Congress yet detailing the plan, Kingston says.
In each of these town hall meeting Kingston is listening to constituents about their concerns, and gathering ideas on how to address the problem.
One very impassioned comments made during the series of town hall meeting came from the Rev. Michael J. Kavanaugh, pastor at a Savannah area church:
Rev. Kavanaugh urged Kingston to consider privatization of Social Security as a moral question.
"In the last election, there was a great deal of discussion about values. That's a good thing, except those values related to only two areas - sexual areas including gay marriage and abortion," he said. "The value of caring for the common good is a Judeo-Christian value, and an American value that goes back beyond our founding.
"The responsibility that we have to maintain Social Security - not private or personal security, but Social Security - are values we must hold on to."
"I'm afraid further privatization, whether it's by choice or enforcement, reduces our understanding of our responsibility for our common good."
Rep. Kingston was in Douglas Wednesday at noon. Here when the issue of income taxes came up as a collateral issue, Kingston commented:
"We must change the fundamental tax code. Quit taxing savings and begin taxing consumption."
(2-23-05, The Savannah Morning News; notes from Coffee County's Rajin' Cajun.)