Question: Should Congress adopt the changes President Bush proposes for the Social Security system?
Yes: Strengthening Social Security is Vital
By: Senator John Ensign (R-NV)
Any discussion about Social Security reform should begin with a reminder: Social Security is your program, not the government’s. The issues being discussed center on your retirement security, your peace of mind, your money and your future. With that in mind, doesn’t it make sense to give American workers the same options that members of Congress have? If you would like to see a better return on the money you pay into the Social Security system, should you have that option, or should we allow Beltway bureaucrats to tell you that you don’t?
We must strengthen and save Social Security now. Social Security is careening down the road to financial ruin, and it is our moral responsibility to tackle this issue now instead of leaving it for our children’s generation to solve. There are those on the other side of this debate who remind me of a group of ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand and hoping the problem will go away. Thankfully, President Bush realizes that inaction now will mean disaster for Social Security later.
It is very important to realize that the President’s ideas for strengthening Social Security will not impact our country’s retirees one bit. For older Americans, the program is fully funded and will provide the security they deserve and the peace of mind they have earned. But for younger workers, Social Security’s promise of financial security in retirement is seriously at risk. Giving American workers the same option that members of Congress have – investing a small portion of their Social Security taxes into personal accounts – is the best way to ensure retirement security. This will provide a nest egg they can call their own and which the government can never touch. And again, it’s voluntary. If they don’t want to participate, they don’t have to. The choice is theirs. It’s unfortunate that some Washington bureaucrats don’t want to trust American workers with the option of a personal nest egg for their retirement security.
The Social Security program, almost 70 years old now, has done a lot of good for millions of American retirees. But it simply cannot survive if we don’t take some of the control of the program out of bureaucrats’ hands. Let’s give younger workers a stake in their retirement. They should be allowed to create personal retirement security accounts that they own. That they control. By not sticking our heads in the sand and by accepting our responsibility to strengthen and save Social Security now, we will make retirement security a reality for the next generation.
No: Save Social Security
By: Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
Social Security is the most successful social program in the history of our country. It allows millions of seniors to live independently and with dignity. Social Security reduces the poverty rate among seniors from about 50 percent to about 10 percent, and provides critical support for the disabled and for the surviving family members of workers who die. I remember as a young boy my own grandmother getting her “old age pension check” and the self-respect and pride she felt at not having to rely on her children to care for her.
Social Security is a program well worth saving, and there is a need for Congress and the President to work together to strengthen and improve the program. However, it is misleading to describe the current situation as a crisis. According to the Congressional Budget Office, which is a non-partisan agency, we will be able to pay full Social Security benefits for nearly 50 years into the future. And after that, we will still have the ability to pay 80 percent of benefits.
The baby boom generation will eventually put pressure on the Social Security program, and we need to address this challenge. We need to make sure the program is solvent not just 50 years into the future, but for generations past that. But we must do it right. We have time to craft a thoughtful solution that will not cut benefits or add massive debt. It will take tough choices and prioritizing our budget, but it can be done.
Privatizing Social Security, as President Bush has proposed, would shift the risk to seniors, linking benefits to the volatile stock market. This would weaken Social Security’s role as a guaranteed safety net. President Bush’s plan would also cause massive and irresponsible increases in our country’s debt, leading to higher interest rates and tax increases. And in secret memos recently uncovered by the press, the White House plan would drastically cut the amount of money seniors get each month. In other words, the President’s plan would not strengthen Social Security – it would destroy it.
Social Security is America’s promise to those who work hard and play by the rules. I look forward to working cooperatively with the President, not only to address Social Security’s long-term challenges, but also to develop new and innovative ways to promote savings.