William Arnone, Chief Executive Officer, National Academy of Social Insurance

When I saw this cartoon by Roz Chast in a recent issue of The New Yorker, I cringed at the thought of it reading instead: “Grandpa, tell us again about Social Security!”

As a result of the end-of-year enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there is widespread belief that its likely impact on the federal budget deficit and debt will generate calls for spending reductions in Social Security, Medicare, and related programs.

In view of the 2018 Congressional elections, few believe that such proposals will be introduced any time soon. The disproportionate representation of older voters in the electorate also seems to reduce the likelihood of action affecting Social Security and Medicare before the 2020 Presidential election.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, however, we can expect another clarion call to “reform” these programs and “save” them for future beneficiaries. One triggering event may well be when the special obligation bonds, in which the OASDI Trust Funds are invested, need to be redeemed to help fund benefit payments.

A key challenge facing us will be the timing of potential legislative action. Some have urged that Congress act sooner rather than later to shore up the finances of Social Security and Medicare. Others contend that delaying action until the current political composition of the federal government changes will lead to more favorable results.

The Certainty of Purpose

It’s been said that, in uncertain times, we need the certainty of purpose. As Members of the National Academy of Social Insurance, whose purpose is to advance solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security, we have a unique role to play in the next big debate surrounding these vital programs.

What should our role be?


The Academy’s primary obligation is to ensure that any serious national debate about social insurance is based on evidence and facts, instead of myths and unsupported opinions. We are committed to activities that: examine the role of social insurance in our economy and society, with particular emphasis on mitigating inequality and the changing range of risks facing people; educate policymakers, advocates, researchers, students, and the media about our findings; and engage more of our Members, supporters, and other stakeholders in our endeavors.

Social Insurance for the Future

In the spirit of being proactive rather than reactive, our annual policy conference on Tuesday, January 30, 2018, at the National Press Club will feature a luncheon presentation by Founding Board Member Henry Aaron of his new Social Security proposal. Following his presentation, I will be moderating a discussion by Founding Board Member Nancy Altman and current Board Member Jason Fichtner. If you haven’t yet registered for what promises to be a very stimulating and provocative discussion, please do so today. (Click here to register.)

In that same spirit, the overall theme of our 2018 conference examines new risks to economic security facing those workers who are in nonstandard work relationships. While the traditional structure of social insurance works well for a majority of the workforce, changes are needed to broaden coverage for others.

As always, I welcome your suggestions on how our Academy may continue to promote robust, evidence-based discussions about our nation’s social insurance infrastructure and the varying risks it needs to address. Please email me at warnone@nasi.org.

Posted on: January 4, 2018


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