NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Save Social Security" Is Easy For Clinton To Say

November 25, 1998

Republicans in Congress never pin Bill Clinton him down on his positions. Clinton appears to be in favor of nothing but positive alternatives to any problem, putting Republicans in the position of "heavy" when they try to focus action on realistic policy options.

A perfect example is Social Security. The system must be fixed because it increasingly is a bad deal for younger workers. The generation of current and previous Social Security recipients got an enormous return on their taxes. By contrast, the Baby Boom generation will barely get back what they paid in and Generation X workers will not even get that.

There is virtually a consensus among economists that some element of private saving needs to be introduced into the system. Modeled on the wildly popular 401(k) plan, workers would be allowed to put some portion of their Social Security taxes into such an account, investing it in the stock market or some other investment.

Social Security revenues and trust fund assets are adequate to ensure that all promised benefits can be paid for another 30 years. Yet Bill Clinton continually talks about "saving" Social Security as if there is some imminent threat to the benefits of current retirees. It allows him to paint reformers as anti- Social Security and himself as its savior. By not forcing him to choose an approach, Republicans allow him to have his cake and eat it too, never having to bear any of the negative consequences of whatever course he chooses.

At an important hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee last week, Chairman Bill Archer (R-Texas) finally tried to pin the administration down on what its plan is to save Social Security. The witness, Assistant Secretary David Wilcox of the Treasury Department, however, refused all entreaties to pin the administration down on anything.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, November 25, 1998.


Browse more articles on Government Issues