CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and former President Bill Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles will join Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for a public discussion about our nation's finances and debts on Monday morning.
Open to the public, the meeting will be held at the Culture Center on the state Capitol grounds, beginning at 9 a.m. Members of the audience will be able to express their views during the gathering, which will last three hours.
Simpson and Bowles co-chaired the 18-member bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Barack Obama in early 2010.
Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va, also plans to attend.
"Our nation has sunk $5.4 trillion deeper in debt to a record $16 trillion," Capito said on Friday. "We cannot keep going down this path. I look forward to a commonsense discussion about opportunities for solutions as we work together to move our country forward."
So far, Congress has taken no action on recommendations made by the Bowles-Simpson Commission.
Larry Matheney, secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said, "The voice of labor is the advocate of the aged, the ill, the economically disadvantaged and our children.
Any plan to fix this debt on the backs of the most vulnerable is a non-starter."
Economist Paul Krugman said Alan Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming, has long claimed our social programs are the root cause of draining our economy.
"Krugman said that is a 'zombie lie.' Old-age programs will not bankrupt this country," Matheney said last week. "On Monday, I hope West Virginia will join with me to make their voices heard."
Wayne Rebich, a carpenter and a leader of the Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation, pointed out that employed people pay into Social Security out of every paycheck they get.
"Social Security has not contributed one dime to the deficit."
Rebich also disagrees with proposals to raise the retirement age for full benefits. Some hope to raise the early retirement age to 64 and the full retirement age to 69.
"People with physically-hard jobs cannot work that long. If you are a construction worker or coal miner in your sixties, you cannot do what you used to do when you were younger."
Rebich and Matheney both believe Congress should "remove the Social Security cap" from wages.
"After you make $110,000 a year today, you do not pay any more Social Security taxes. Most people don't reach that level. If you remove that cap, you would make Social Security solvent in the future and you could reduce the retirement age," Rebich said.
Hattie Johnson, who used to be a carpenter and rigger for Union Carbide and Dow, is a home-health nurse today.
"I don't want to see any cuts to Social Security. We think folks who paid into Social security are entitled to all their benefits. Seniors do not want a cut in Social Security," Johnson said.
Matheney pointed out Social Security is "much more than a pension plan."