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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

A new kind of Social Security

ADON TAFT, Guest columnist Staff
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 05:29 PM

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The future of Social Security and other so-called entitlement programs will be a major issue in the upcoming presidential election. And in Florida, one of the key swing states where a victory is almost a must for a candidate to assure election, it may be the issue because nearly one of every five residents now receives a Social Security check every month for a total of $4.8 billion added to the economy.

Because 17.6 percent of the total U.S, population of more than 314 million now receives checks amounting to $63.2 million a month from one of the various programs under Social Security and those numbers continue to grow, trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund have been warning for more than a decade that the gold in the pot at the end of the rainbow for senior citizens has been melting and could evaporate in the not too distant future.

If you are younger than 50, you may have just shrugged your shoulders at the most recent alarming report from the trustees that the huge government benefits program faces bankruptcy, of sorts, in a rapidly shrinking few years. Maybe you weren't counting on Social Security being there anyway when you retire.

But take hope, there may be a plan akin to Social Security that could be perpetually solvent by the time you join more than 56 million people already getting some sort of benefits from what now is the federal government's largest budget item. It is not the plan of either presidential candidate. It is a non-partisan grass roots effort to solve the problems resulting from:

Hernando County (Florida) resident Jim Gries is the generator of the proposed solution. A 70-year-old grandfather, he is a small business entrepreneur who around the country has owned or started half a dozen businesses ranging from plumbing and heating, metal manufacturing, furniture rental, raising quarter horses, to a biometric company. That experience, he feels, provided the financing knowledge for dealing with Social Security's money crisis.

Called AmeriCareToday (ACT), his plan has been endorsed by Ray Holbrook, the Texas judge who was instrumental in implementing the Galveston retirement plan that has kept their retirement dollars in the city for the past 30 years.

The plan has been vetted by various business and community groups and now put into the hands of two key members of Congress – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a medical doctor with a degree in accounting who is ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and serves on the subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy; and Rep.  Richard Nugent (R-Florida's 5th Congressional district), former Hernando sheriff with a master's degree in public administration and serves on the House Rules Committee and Committee on House Administration.

Congressman Nugent cautioned that "when you are talking about a program affecting millions of people and involving trillions upon trillions worth of hard-earned tax dollars, the key is specifics." "As I understand it, he (Gries) is working on filling out the details, including some of the specifics I asked him about, and I certainly look forward to seeing what he comes up with."

To promote the idea, a drive has been launched to build and finance a national 501-C3 non-profit organization with a board of directors (names not to be announced until completed) of a handful of distinguished business and community leaders along with a couple of economists to hone the plan which, over a 35-year transition period, would replace the current Social Security program with one that not only would be permanently solvent but provide funding for needed community infrastructure.

Here are the basic provisions of the ACT plan, available at the website

Details of how the program will deal with the rapidly growing 8.6 million men, women and children receiving disability benefits or the 8 million receiving Supplemental Security Income payments from Social Security funds still are being worked out.

It is the local control of funds by a select, non-political group of representative leaders of various segments of the community and the limited kinds of projects to be undertaken that would give the plan the integrity to succeed, Gries believes.

It also would provide the flexibility to adjust to a U.S. Population of 313.4 million that grows by one person every 14 seconds and, by providing jobs, have a positive impact on a national debt that has grown from $5.6 trillion in the year 2000 to a whopping $15.l6 trillion today. A sort of "put something in the pot" idea.

Adon Taft is a retired reporter for The Miami Herald who lives in Brooksville. The last decade of his 48 years with the Herald, he wrote about Social Security and other issues involving the elderly population. He also taught social studies at Miami Dade Community College. He can be contacted at

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