As Democrats in Congress continue to reject President Bush's overtures to work together to strengthen Social Security, it's worth remembering that a bipartisan consensus for reform existed long before the president put this issue on his agenda.
In fact, Aug. 1 was the fifth anniversary of the Democratic Leadership Council's Hyde Park Declaration. Signed in 2000 by more than 70 elected Democrats across the country, including last year's presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry and current senators Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln, the declaration mirrors President Bush's current effort to strengthen Social Security in several key areas:
• The declaration acknowledged the fiscal troubles that "big entitlements" like Social Security face and that the growth of these programs "will eventually bankrupt them." Similarly, Mr. Bush has warned that the Social Security system faces bankruptcy unless Congress acts promptly and decisively.
• The declaration called on leaders to "honor our commitment to seniors" by making the major entitlement programs - including Social Security - solvent. This is consistent with the president's repeated statements that Social Security must be made permanently solvent, not left as a problem for future generations.
• The declaration stated that "we must find a way to contain future costs" of entitlement programs such as Social Security. It argued that "Social Security and Medicare need to be modernized to reflect conditions not envisioned when they were created" and that Congress should enact "structural reforms that restrain their growth and limit their claim on the working families whose taxes support the programs."