We all know how difficult it is to get a bill through Congress. What's even tougher is, once the bill becomes law, to get lawmakers to change the law when it becomes outmoded.
But election-year expediency can work wonders. Congress and the president, realizing comprehensive Social Security reform is unlikely this year, wanted to offer voters at least some progress. So, they concentrated on one, sorely needed change -- repealing the Social Security earnings limit.
Under the cap, a working senior citizen between 65 and 69 loses $1 in benefits for every $3 earned over $17,000. The earnings limit was originally imposed during the Great Depression to frighten seniors away from jobs younger people with families to raise could fill.
However, the current economic boom has produced more than enough jobs to go around. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 275,000 Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending Feb. 26. Economists believe that jobless claims below 300,000 indicates an extremely tight labor market.
Many able-bodied seniors are ready to pitch in, but don't necessarily like the idea of making the government their prime beneficiary. Obviously, this is a situation in crying need of legislative repair.
The House has taken the first step, voting 422-0 Wednesday to repeal the earnings limit. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is just as popular. President Clinton has promised to sign the repeal if the bill isn't changed too much.
Hopefully, nothing will derail this fast-track legislation. It may be a small step toward Social Security reform, but it is the right thing to do.
Minnesota voters lose a respected voice of moderation in Senate race
Tim Penny's decision to withdraw from the U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota leaves the race without a proven voice of moderation.
He's probably right to step out if he believes his enthusiasm for the test -- that fire in the belly -- is not strong enough. It takes a lot of determination and focus to conduct a statewide political race. Without a complete commitment, it won't work.
The disappointment in Penny's decision is that he was, at this point, the candidate most representative of the majority of Minnesotans. He is a moderate Democrat who was not afraid to incur the ire of the liberal majority of his party.
He also has been a voice of moderation and good sense since he left Congress. He has appeared in various forums in the state, both conservative and liberal, often providing the balance in policy discussions and debates.
His political appeal in the state is so sound that he was courted briefly by Gov. Jesse Ventura as a possible Reform Party candidate for the U.S. Senate. That was before Ventura left the party.
We respect Penny's decision to put family ahead of political ambitions. The time still might come when he can get back into political life. Minnesotans who know him hope so.
-- The Forum of Fargo
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.