Issue Position: Social Security Reform
Since its creation in 1935, Social Security has provided essential and guaranteed income to America's seniors. Recently, President Bush outlined a plan to reform Social Security that proposes the creation of personal retirement accounts. I commend the President for his attempt to tackle this critically important issue. More importantly, I agree with the President that the Social Security benefits of current and soon-to-be retirees must be maintained. Further, I believe the federal government must maintain its commitment to future retirees.
I have long thought that we should consider long-term reform of the Social Security program in order to maintain our commitment to future retirees. When Social Security was created, there were about forty workers paying Social Security taxes for every person receiving benefits. Today, there are about three workers for every beneficiary. Furthermore, Social Security was created at a time when the average life expectancy was 61.7 years. Average life expectancy today is approaching 77 years. These changing conditions have created a situation where Social Security benefits paid out will exceed payroll taxes collected in 2018 and the program will be insolvent by 2042.
In light of this information, President Bush formed The Commission to Strengthen Social Security in May of 2001. This bipartisan commission was tasked with developing a plan to reform Social Security and ensure its solvency for future generations. The Commission issued its Final Report on December 21, 2001. The report offered three options to reform Social Security. Each plan approached reform from a different direction, but each relied heavily on the idea of personal retirement accounts.
Although President Bush has outlined a broad proposal for personal retirement accounts, the debate surrounding Social Security reform will continue to evolve, and we must remember that the devil is in the details. Reform of Social Security is a complex issue and I believe that we must heed the advice of Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan to proceed in a "cautious and gradual way." While I support the underlying principle of personal retirement accounts, I am skeptical of any plan that places a significant burden on future generations and could endanger the economic well-being of our country.
I believe significant reforms to a program as large and critically important as Social Security must be cautious and deliberative, and I intend to take such an approach as Congress debates this matter.