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2005 Discussion Archive

Monday, August 8, 2005

Happy 70th Birthday to the Social Security program, and many happy returns!

Wilhelmina Leigh, Senior Research Associate, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

As I wish happy birthday to the Social Security program, I think of my maternal grandmother who died in 1993 at the age of 101. Grannie received an annual letter from the Social Security Administration to verify her continued eligibility for monthly checks. My mother and I chuckled as we proudly put the forms into the return mail on her behalf; Grannie puts the lie to the proposition that African Americans don't benefit from Social Security because of their shorter life spans.

My maternal grandmother was widowed in 1936, the year after Social Security's birth. After the death of her husband, grannie did what she had to do to support her three children: domestic work and taking in both laundry and borders. Although her hard work was never acknowledged by coverage under the Social Security program, her late husband's work was, and she was able to receive a modest benefit check based on his year of covered employment.

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Sunday, August 7, 2005

Yes, Virginia, There is A Trust Fund.

Walter Shur, New York Life Insurance Company (Retired)

In a tour of the Bureau of The Public Debt several months ago, President Bush, commenting on the Social Security Trust Fund said, “There is no trust ‘fund’ — just IOUs that I saw firsthand.” That statement is, in its intent and effect, a repudiation of the public debt, and a clear violation of Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law,...,shall not be questioned.”

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Posted on August 7, 2005  |  1 comment  |  Add your comment
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Sunday, August 7, 2005

A Slow Death

Walter Shur, New York Life Insurance Company (Retired)

One of the reasons the Bush Social Security plan is dying is that the public instinctively knows it is not being told the truth. Here is a prime example:

The President Giveth And The President Taketh Away.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

The Right Tax To Pay for Social Security

Jon Forman, Alfred P. Murrah Professor of Law, University of Oklahoma

According to the 2005 Report of the Social Security Trustees, the Social Security system currently has a deficit of $4 trillion. To pay benefits for the next 75 years, the government needs $4 trillion more than it will collect in payroll taxes and interest over that period. How should the government raise that $4 trillion? The conventional wisdom says that we should either raise Social Security payroll taxes or cut Social Security benefits, but that's accounting nonsense. And it is keeping us from modernizing the Social Security system.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Social Security Reform

Dwight K. Bartlett, Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, Former Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration, 1979-81

President George W. Bush has made it clear that a high priority, perhaps the highest priority, item in his economic agenda for his second term will be the “partial privatization” of Social Security. He would allow younger workers to redirect a portion of their FICA tax from the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds into personal accounts, with a limited variety of investment options. The argument is-;»that such accounts will, on average, earn a higher rate of return than the trust funds do, resulting in ultimately larger benefits than the present program can sustain. It would also provide lower income workers, who find it impossible to save and invest at present, a sense of ownership of a portion of our economic pie.

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Posted on April 20, 2005  |  Write the first comment
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Multigenerational Grand Larceny

Malvin Schechter, Freelance Consultant and Writer

What is so irritating to this Social Security taxpayer is that l have, in effect, overpaid my Social Security contributions since 1983 in order to build up the trust fund. The President insults me and other contributors by implying that the funds are tied up in worthless Treasury bonds, or lOUs. That's not what we were told when asked to dig deeper into our pockets. Moreover, if the objective of Bush's remarks is to prepare the way for a default on these Treasury securities, one wonders if he knows what he will do to the bond market and the pension funds that hold Treasury bonds: he is campaigning to discredit any Treasury bonds (and any corporate bonds, since they constitute lOUs, too).

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Social Security: What Now?

Laurence Seidman, Professor of Economics, University of Delaware

Social Security does not have to be changed to avoid a financial collapse. Even if nothing is done, benefits due under the current Social Security benefit formula will be paid until 2042, and after 2042 payroll taxes will be sufficient to finance a monthly benefit equal to 73% of the benefit due under the current benefit formula. This post-2042 benefit will be greater after inflation than today's benefit. In this sense, there is no crisis in Social Security.

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Posted on April 11, 2005  |  Write the first comment
Friday, March 11, 2005

A Solution for the Crisis

Ed Welch,School of Labor and Industrial Relations Michigan State University

We need a simple, easily articulated solution to the Social Security crisis. Let there be no doubt that there is a crisis. Some people have suggested that the solvency problem is not as serious as others claim. That may be true, but the President is currently traveling around the country telling the American public that there is a serious problem. That in itself is a crisis.

Because of the nature of the crisis, it can only be resolved by a solution that is relatively simple and can be easily explained to the public. It is also essential that it be a positive approach. It is not enough to show what others are doing wrong or should not do in the future. This crisis can only be solved by a positive program of what can be done.

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Friday, February 4, 2005

Women are the majority of older Americans and many of them are alone

Anna Rappaport, Independent consultant

I wish to build on ideas from other members:

  • Social Security is not in crisis today
  • Solutions are available that build on the current system and do not require radical change
  • Social Security policy should be considered in the context of the total retirements picture (and three legged stool)

This is a critical time for the retirement security of Americans as Social Security is under attack at the same time that employer plans have declined and are suffering from an adverse regulatory climate. The decisions that policymakers make today will be important for decades to come.

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Posted on February 4, 2005  |  Write the first comment
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Thursday, February 3, 2005

Balancing Risk and Guarantees

Carson E. Beadle, Chairman The Health Project

As the least equipped of our distinguished writers I am perhaps least to be considered. That said, I have been struck over the years by one factor in the continuing debate on the extent of social benefits. And that is the balance between the degree of personal risk that keeps us alert and the comfort of guarantees to the extent they engender complacency.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Three-Legged Stool

Gerben DeJong, PhD, Senior Fellow, National Rehabilitation Hospital

I am concerned that we are focused on only one of the 3 legs of the proverbial retirement security stool, namely, the Social Security leg, when the other two legs are even more wobbly. Consider the erosion of employer-sponsored retirement plans, the wobbliness of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and the lack of individual retirement savings. Time for a little broader perspective.

Moreover, we need to have a discussion on what the implications are for SSDI, the risk of cost-shifting to the SSI program, and new burdens on the states for the SSI and Medicaid programs. All of this becomes part of the mix.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Language and Labels

William J. Arnone, Founding Member, NASI

As the Social Security debate heats up, the outcome may well depend on the language and labels used by proponents of fundamental changes in the program and by those who want to preserve its essential nature.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Chilean prescription will worsen US social security ills

Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Pittsburgh

Jośe Piñera, former minister of labor under Pinochet and the “father” of pension privatization in Chile, as well as a promoter of that approach throughout the world, has recently discussed his conversations with and encouragement to President Bush to apply the Chilean prescription to cure U.S. social security ills (New York Times, December 1, 2004, A81).

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