The Post and I have often disagreed, but until now I've never seen mere disagreement described as "an ugly way to proceed." Yet that was the point and title of a Jan. 24 editorial objecting to my raising the issue of Vice President George Bush's and Sen. Bob Dole's 1985 votes for a Social Security freeze.
The Post agreed that my facts are correct, and that the votes are pertinent "on grounds that what they did before, they would do again." Nor did The Post question the way I've raised the issue, which has been respectful of both Mr. Bush and Mr. Dole.
So what's "ugly"? "The Social Security system is so freighted with myths and fears -- and so central an element in the budget -- that Mr. Kemp ends up doing something more, and a lot less pleasant, than just jabbing in the normal way at rival candidates. He is no longer preaching economic optimism. He is trying to mobilize a vulnerable part of the electorate behind a beckoning feel-good philosophy that, if left in place, will crush us all. It's an ugly way in which to proceed."
It turns out that The Post favors the Social Security cutbacks -- calling the votes a "high point." What it finds ugly is the prospect that if Jack Kemp raises the issue, he will persuade people to support an economic philosophy with which Mr. Bush, Mr. Dole and The Post disagree. I certainly hope so!
It's simply not true that refusing to cut back benefits for a "vulnerable part of the electorate" will "crush us all." The official actuaries' report says Social Security is in "close actuarial balance" for the next 75 years. The system now has a rapidly growing surplus -- which means Social Security is subtracting from the deficit, not adding to it.
So why have more than two-thirds of the candidates for president, Republican and Democratic, supported some kind of freeze, cutback or complete phase-out of Social Security? It's because they are grasping at straws on how to deal with the federal budget deficit. Social Security surpluses and swelling tax receipts -- revenues have risen 75 percent in eight years -- show that these are not the causes of the deficit. But in Washington apparently no one can think of any other answer.
I can. Before the 1970s we had low interest rates and balanced federal budgets because we also had something else: a dollar as good as gold. Interest rates were low when people knew that a dollar would buy as many groceries in 30 years as it did then. And budgets were usually balanced when Congress could not borrow and spend as much money as it wanted.
All that changed in 1971 when President Nixon took us off the gold standard. Today, without discipline on borrowing, every tax dollar is spent by Congress without reducing the national debt. Also, the government pays up to $90 billion more a year on the national debt, at a 9 percent instead of 3.5 percent long-term interest rate -- this century's average before 1970. Neither raising taxes nor cutting back Social Security benefits can cure this.
I believe we must make the dollar once again as good as gold, as it was for almost 200 years until 1971. Together with a lid on spending, this could make a balanced budget a reality again, not a pipe dream.
I realize that this is not what Mr. Bush, Mr. Dole and The Post want. However, all three opposed the Kemp-Roth tax cuts in 1980, and Mr. Bush and Mr. Dole had the wisdom to change their minds in 1981. Who knows? Perhaps the 1988 election will get even The Post to oppose Social Security cutbacks and to support restoring a dollar as good as gold. JACK KEMP U.S. Representative (R-N.Y.) Washington