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President Discusses Strengthening Social Security

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Guest The White House

9:24 A.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thanks for the warm welcome. It's a little early for the Texas delegation. (Laughter.) I hope you're behaving yourselves. I know you are, since Billy Gammon isn't here. (Laughter.) I am pleased to be with the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. Thanks.


Laura told me on the way over to give you all her best. (Applause.) Generally what happens when I mention her name, most people say, well, I wish you'd have sent her. (Laughter.) She's doing great. She is a -- really a fine person; a great mother, great wife and a great First Lady for America. (Applause.) I'm a really lucky guy when she said, "yes," when I asked her to marry me.


I really appreciate your inviting me and I appreciate your work. I appreciate the way more than 300,000 of you around America help our fellow citizens, help our fellow citizens protect their property, help our fellow citizens provide for their families in case of calamity. Thanks for what you do. Thanks for being good stewards within the communities in which you live. I oftentimes tell people that the great strength of America is not our military -- although we'll keep it strong -- the great strength of America is not the size of our wallets. The great strength of America is the hearts and souls of our fellow citizens who work in the communities in which they live to feed the hungry, provide hope for the hopeless, provide shelter for the homeless, who love a neighbor just like they'd like to be loved themselves. I know that's what you all do on a daily basis in the community in which you live, and thank you for making America a better place. (Applause.)


I welcome to you the nation's capital, where sometimes politics gets in the way of doing the people's business. Take John Bolton -- he's a good man I nominated to represent our country at the United Nations. John's distinguished career and service to our nation demonstrates that he is the right man at the right time for this important assignment. I urge the Senate to put aside politics and confirm John Bolton to the United Nations. (Applause.)


Politics in Washington has also made it hard for some to put aside their differences to come to the table to strengthen Social Security. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. I want to spend some time with you talking about the fact that Social Security is headed for deep trouble, and that those of us who have been entrusted by the people to serve our country need to act now to make sure the Social Security system is there for our children and our grandchildren.


I want to thank Bob Rusbuldt for giving me a chance to come. I appreciate the invitation. I want to thank Tom Grau for his leadership role, as well. But most of all, thank you all for your interest.


The men and women of the "Big I" -- I think that's what you call yourselves -- (laughter) -- appreciate the principles that are important for a healthy and strong -- a healthy and strong America. And I appreciate the principles that you stand for, planning for the future and providing Americans with more choices, and working to get your friends and clients a better deal. I appreciate your commitment to standing with your clients until their claims are settled, to help people through the rough spots. You're ensuring the American Dream, and I appreciate that, as well.


By protecting homes and the savings of millions of families, you're helping this nation be more secure for a lot of folks. And that's what I'm interested in. I'm interested in a secure nation. I'm working to make sure this nation is a prosperous nation. And we're working hard to spread freedom and the peace we all want.


We have an ambitious agenda here in Washington. There's a lot to do. The war on terror goes on. We're still at war. There's still a ruthless enemy that would like to harm our country. They want to do us harm because of what we believe. We stand for freedom and liberty and human dignity and the rights of minorities, the right for people to worship freely. And we're not going to change. And they don't like it. But we're going to keep pressure on them. We'll work with friends and allies. We will be unrelenting in our efforts to bring the terrorists to justice, and we will not rest until America is safe. (Applause.)


In the long run, the best way to protect America is to change the conditions that give rise to hopelessness and extremism. That's the best way to protect generations of Americans to come. And the best way to change the conditions that give rise to hopelessness and extremism is to spread freedom.


I oftentimes tell audiences this -- and it's important for our fellow citizens and people around the world to hear this -- that freedom is not America's gift to the world, freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world. (Applause.) I believe all people desire to be free. I believe moms in the Middle East want their children to grow up in a peaceful world so their children can have -- can realize their God-given potential. That's what I believe. And if you believe that, then you have an obligation to help spread that freedom. And freedom is on the march.


Incredibly exciting times to live in, when you think about what has taken place in a relatively quick period of time. The other day at the Lincoln Library opening in Springfield -- and if you're here from Springfield or Illinois, you've got yourself a heck of a library. (Applause.) You know what I'm talking about. Well, you don't know yet. Go see it, and then you'll know what I'm talking about. (Laughter.)


Just sometimes freedom moves slowly, like water cutting through a rock. I said, but sometimes, when people see the example of courage, freedom moves like a wildfire. Think about what's happened in a quick period of time. Afghanistan is free. Millions of people voted for a President, in spite of the fact that only a short time before that, they were under the brutal control of the Taliban. Or in Ukraine, when people went to the streets to demand free and fair elections. Or Kyrgyzstan, or in Lebanon. By the way, our message is very clear to Syria: Take out all your troops, take out all your intelligence services, and give the good people of Lebanon a chance to have free and fair elections. (Applause.)


The world saw the courage of those who have freedom etched in their souls in Iraq, courage of over 8 million citizens who are willing to defy terrorists and killers and car bombers, to say with a message that resonated around the world, we want to be free; we're willing to take risks to vote. A free Iraq is important to America's security, is important for generations of Americans to come to have an ally in the war on terror, like Iraq. Today, the people of Iraq decide the fate of their government, and not the other way around.


I look forward to working with the new government of Iraq. I look forward to working with those who have been chosen by the people to meet the challenges that this country faces. As Iraqis stand up for their freedom, this country will stand with the people of a free Iraq. As a new government assumes increasing responsibility for their country, security operations are entering into a new phase. Iraqi security forces are becoming more self-reliant, they're becoming better at what they do. They're taking on greater responsibilities, and that means America and its coalition partners are increasingly playing a more supportive role.


Today -- I don't know if you realize this or not -- over 150,000 Iraqi security forces have been trained or equipped; for the first time, the Iraqi army, police and security forces now outnumber U.S. forces in Iraq. We're working on establishing chains of command. We're working to make sure civilian government understands that there needs to be stability in the security forces. Like free people everywhere, Iraqis want to be defended and led by their own countrymen. That's easy to understand that thought and desire. And that's what we want. That's the strategy of the United States. And so we'll help them achieve this objective so they can secure their own nation. And when they're ready and equipped, our troops will come home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.)


We've got a lot of work to do to spread freedom abroad and we've got work to do to pursue pro-growth economic policies here at home. And our goal is pretty clear: We want America to be the best place in the world to do business. That's what we want. We want it to be the best place to risk capital. (Applause.) We've overcome a lot. We've overcome a recession and a terrorist attack and corporate scandals and war. But our economy is growing.


Let me tell you what I think we need to do to continue to grow our economy so people can realize their dreams. First, one of the heaviest burdens on business is the litigations costs in America. Recently I was -- (applause) -- I was proud to sign the Class Action Fairness Act, a good piece of legislation. It was a critical first step toward ending the lawsuit culture in our country. (Applause.) Class action reform succeeded because members of both parties saw a serious problem and joined together. That's a hopeful accomplishment in a town too often bitterly divided because of politics. And so my message to the Congress is, stay focused on what you can do. Now we can do more work on -- when it comes to legal reform.


We need to take action on asbestos legal reform. (Applause.) We need to make sure health care is available and affordable and one of the ways to make sure health care is available and affordable is to do something about the junk lawsuits that are running good doctors out of practice. (Applause.)


When I first came to Washington, I thought medical liability reform would -- could best be handled at the state level, until I realized what the cost of the defensive practice of medicine, the cost of settling lawsuits, the rising costs of premiums do to the federal budget. I mean, if you think about the cost in the federal budget and the cost of frivolous lawsuits in the federal budget, you begin to recognize why I think it's now a national problem.


Listen, we pay for Medicare, we pay for Medicaid, we pay for veterans' health benefits -- all those costs are affected by junk lawsuits. Medical liability reform is a national problem that requires a national solution, and now is the time for the United States Senate to listen to doctors and patients and concerned citizens -- not to the powerful trial lawyer lobby -- and get me a medical liability bill. (Applause.)


I also understand the importance of small business in creating jobs in our country. That's why I worked with Congress to help reinvigorate our economy, to help strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit by enacting the largest tax relief in a generation. (Applause.) It's important to have certainty in the tax code. Congress must understand that. And that's why I've been urging to make sure that Congress makes the tax relief we passed permanent. (Applause.)


Today, in large part to small businesses such as -- like yours, more than 3 million new jobs have been added to our economy since May of 2003. Today, more workers -- more Americans are working than ever before in our nation's history. I applaud the House of Representatives for taking the side of small businesses last week for voting to repeal the death tax. (Applause.) The death tax results in unfair double taxation. They tax your assets while you're alive, then they tax your assets when your dead. (Laughter.) I believe we ought to bury the death tax forever. (Applause.) By doing so, it will inject vital life into the small business community; it will increase fairness in the tax code; it will help promote economic security. The Senate -- the Senate needs to join the House in repealing the death tax forever. (Applause.)


I want to spend a little time with you on Social Security. You know, I know this is one of these issues that some wish I hadn't have brought up in Washington. It's one of these issues that I suspect some of them are really saying, gosh, I wish the President hadn't decided to take this issue on. I campaigned on the issue. I said to the American people, if you give me a chance to serve I will bring this issue to focus. That's what I said in campaign stop after campaign stop -- if you give me a chance, I'm going to talk about reforming the Social Security system. I'm confident members of Congress, when they really think about that, will say, gosh, it's good to have a President who does in office what he said he would do on the campaign trail. (Applause.)


I also believe it is my duty and my obligation as your President to confront problems now, and not pass them on to future Presidents and future generations. (Applause.) That's why I've traveled the last few weeks to over 22 -- to 22 states, talking about Social Security. I mean, I have a strategy. First I want to lay out to the American people we have a problem, because I believe once the American people hear the problem, they're going to then say to those of us who have been elected, what you going to do about it. So I'm going to spend a lot of time talking about this issue.


You see, I think it's -- and the reason why is because I know how important Social Security is to the country. Franklin Roosevelt did a good thing when he created the Social Security system in 1935. I'm sure you've got relatives who depend upon the Social Security check. I meet people all the time in our country who say, you got to understand, Mr. President, how important that check is to me. There's a lot of folks in this country who count upon that check when it arrives. In other words, the system has provided an important safety net for a lot of our fellow citizens.


And so the seniors who receive their checks must hear this loud and clear: Don't fall prey to the propaganda, those who are trying to scare you when there's talk about making sure the Social Security system is modern. If you're receiving a check from Social Security today, you'll receive a check next month and the next month after that and for every month you're alive. The federal government will keep its commitments to the seniors who are relying upon Social Security. (Applause.)


If you were born before 1950, you're in good shape with the system as it exists today. You're going to get your check. The problem is, our government has made promises to younger Americans that it cannot keep, and that's important for our fellow citizens to know. It's important for them to know that there is a hole in the safety net. The safety net for citizens who retire is in good shape if you've been born before 1950. If you were born after 1950, you better pay attention to the issue.


First, as I travel the country, I find out some people think there's such thing as a Social Security trust. By that I mean we collect your money through the payroll tax, and we hold your money for you, and then when you retire, we give you your money back. No -- (laughter) -- that's not the way it works. That's what you call a -- it was set up as a pay-as-you-go system, in other words, you pay and we go ahead and spend. (Laughter.) You pay through payroll taxes, and we spend your payroll taxes on making sure we cover the benefits of the retirees. And with the money leftover, like there's money leftover now, we spend it on other government programs.


So instead of having a trust, we have a pay-as-you-go system, and that which exists in the system is a filing cabinet, or a series of filing cabinets, full of IOUs. In other words, we've got paper.


And the reason I bring this up to you is that it's really important for our citizens to understand how the system works, first and foremost. In other words, when you're talking about strengthening and modernizing, you've got to understand that all that is leftover in the system today is paper.


This pay-as-you-go system worked just fine for a while. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying taxes for each beneficiary. That's not a very heavy load for a worker to pay one-sixteenth of the promise to the beneficiary. Today, there's 3.3 workers per beneficiary. By the time our children and grandchildren retire, there will be 2 workers for every beneficiary. As you're beginning to see, the math is changing for Social Security -- fewer people paying in the pay-as-you-go system per beneficiary, but that is only part of the problem.


To compound the problem, baby boomers like me and a lot of you will be eligible to retire in four years. See, I'm turning 62 in four years. It's a convenient time, four years for me to retire. (Laughter and applause.) The retirement of baby boomers will have a huge impact on the pay-as-you-go Social Security system. And here's why: my generation's about 50 percent larger than my parents' generation. Today, there are about 40 million retirees receiving benefits. By the time all the baby boomers have retired, there will be more than 72 million retirees receiving benefits.


We're going to be living longer, too. Medicine has changed to help us live longer. A lot of us are exercising a lot. I would strongly urge exercise if you want to live longer and make right choices for what you put in your body. But we're living longer than the previous generation. And the problem even gets further magnified because Congress has made sure benefits to my generation grow faster than the rate of inflation or even the economy. In other words, people who ran for office said, vote for me, I'm going to make sure your benefits go up.


So think about what has taken place and what will take place relative to the pay-as-you-go Social Security system. You've got a lot of people retiring who are living longer who have been promised greater benefits, with fewer people paying into the system. Those are the dynamics that have made this issue a critical issue, particularly for younger generations of Americans coming up.


Social Security system three years from now will start heading into the red. In 2017, Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes. A pay-as-you-go system, money coming in, money going out. More money will be going out than coming in, in 2017, and every year thereafter the situation gets worse. In other words, the cash deficit for that year accelerates. In 2034, the annual shortfall will be more than $300 billion. In 2041, the system will be broke, bankrupt. So we've got a problem coming down the road.


Now, I recognize here in Washington 2017 may seem like a long way away. It's not all that far away. It's 12 years from now. If you've got a 6-year-old kid, your kid is going to be voting. If you think that's long, you haven't raised a kid yet. (Laughter.) It happens just like that. If you're a grandparent, you're going to get your check. But you've got to be wondering about whether or not the burden is going to be so heavy on your grandchildren that the America they grow up in is going to be a country burdened by obligations that a Congress in 2005 was unwilling to confront.


You see, the longer we wait to fix this problem, the more drastic the solutions become. As a matter of fact, the Social Security trustees say every year we wait to fix the system will add an additional $600 billion to the cost of reform. In other words, if this city gets locked down because of politics, that lock-down costs a future generation $600 billion every year. In other words, we've got a serious problem. And the point the trustees make is, why don't you fix it now; why don't you come together to get something done?


If we wait -- in other words, if you say, oh, gosh, well, it's too difficult to do, or, we don't want to make so-and-so look good relative to such-and-such -- if we wait, it's conceivable younger workers will have to have a payroll tax of about 18 percent in order to make good on the promises. That's not going to work, folks. If we wait, the benefits promised to a lot of folks are going to have to be slashed dramatically, or other government programs affected.


So recognizing this problem, I stood up in front of the Congress at the State of the Union and said, here's the problem. I also said, bring forth your ideas. See, I don't view this as a Republican problem, I don't view it as a Democrat problem; I view it as a national problem that requires people to come forward, say, here's my idea, or here's another idea. We've had a lot of people starting to come forward; people have come forward in the past. I was telling President Clinton when I traveled with him to the Pope's funeral -- which, by the way, was a magnificent event. It was just unbelievably spiritual and -- it was great, in recognition of a great man.


But I said, I remember your -- I think it was 1996 town hall meeting in Albuquerque. He probably said, what are you watching C-SPAN at such a late hour for? But, anyway -- (laughter.) And people were encouraged to bring forth ideas on how to permanently solve the Social Security problem. That was in '96. Former Democrat Congressman Tim Penny has come forth with good ideas. I asked the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York to put together a bipartisan commission to look at Social Security --this was in 2001. They came forward with a lot of good ideas. There's a Democrat Social Security expert named Robert Pozen who believes we ought to restructure benefits and be more generous to low-income workers. That's a good idea. All ideas are on the table. That's how you get the job done.


And when somebody puts an idea on the table, you can rest assured the White House will not attack them. And that's important for people to hear, as well. Now is the time for a civil debate on how to solve this national problem. Now, I do believe the reforms ought to be guided by certain principles: We ought not to raise the payroll tax rate. (Applause.) Social Security must continue to provide dignity and peace of mind for those with lower incomes. That's an important principle for a good retirement system. We've got to make sure that the solution is a permanent solution, by the way, and not a temporary fix.


I really appreciated the spirit in 1983 of President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill and others who said, we got a problem with Social Security, let's come together and fix it. That's the kind of spirit that I'm confident will prevail eventually here in Washington. By the way, this is the 22nd anniversary of the 75-year fix on Social Security. (Laughter.) In other words, at the time they said, we got us a 75-year fix. The problem is, 22 years later we're now talking about, let's make it permanent this time. And so, when Congress debates these issues, it's really important to make sure that we have a permanent fix, that we get it done once and for all.


I'm looking forward to hearing more good ideas, as people discuss the issue. By the way, I'm encouraged; I believe we're going to get something done. After all, the United States Senate looked at the issue and passed a resolution that said we ought to fix Social Security permanently. That's an interesting vote. You had the two senators from Texas voting "yes," and the two senators from Massachusetts voting "yes." That's called bipartisanship. (Laughter.) See, they made it clear; they're on record. Every single United States senator is on record supporting a permanent fix for Social Security. And now those senators need to keep their word and make Social Security solvent once and for all. (Applause.)


Bringing permanent solvency to Social Security is an important start, but it's only part of our duty. Preserving Social Security should not mean preserving its problems. Today, we have an opportunity -- as we permanently solve Social Security we have an opportunity to make -- to give younger Americans a better deal when it comes to the Social Security system. And I want to spend a little time talking to you about what I mean by that.


See, I think we ought to give every American the opportunity to own assets. I love the concept of spreading ownership throughout America. And I know we've got to give younger Americans the opportunity to tap into the power of compound interest so they have a chance to get a higher rate of return on their own money, on their own assets than the current system allows. Sometimes in Washington we seem to forget whose money we spend. You see, those payroll taxes, that's not the government's money -- the payroll taxes are hardworking people's money. And it seems like it makes sense to me to give the hardworking people a chance to earn a better rate of return on their money than the government does.


And so I think we ought to give younger workers the opportunity to save, in the Social Security system, through what's called a personal retirement account. Essentially, that would be a conservative mix of bonds and stocks that grows over time. Today, the real rate of return on the Social Security for your money is about 1.8 percent. At that rate, it will take you nearly 40 years to double your money. If you put the money in the market and get a 4-percent return, your money will double in about 18 years. If you get the historical market average of 7 percent, your money will double in just over 10 years. That's what's called the miracle of compound interest at work.


We have a fellow with us today named Wright Noll. He's 67 years old; he's married with five children. He spent about 30 years as a schoolteacher and an assistant principal, and most of that time in Bend, Oregon. By the way, it's a nice place to live, right? He took what you might call a sabbatical and spent six years as a dairy farmer. This guy is a hardworking guy. At one point he held three jobs.


Wright says he paid roughly the same amount of money into both Social Security and the Oregon state pension plan for government employees. Unlike the money Wright put into Social Security, the money he paid into Oregon's plan was saved and invested. As a result, the money in the Oregon plan benefited from the power of compound interest, and he got a better -- bigger retirement check. Today, Wright's monthly Social Security check is about $1,152 a month; his monthly check from the Oregon retirement system is nearly $5,400. That's the power of compound interest.


When he said he started getting his retirement checks, he went out and bought himself five brand new shirts. (Laughter.) He said, "I never did that before because, being a schoolteacher with five kids, you have to shop at the used clothing store."


I appreciate you coming, Wright. I appreciate you letting me use you as an example of missed opportunity for a lot of people because of the way the current system is structured. You see, I think we need to give everybody a chance, if they so choose, to put some of their money in a personal savings account, a conservative mix of bonds and stocks, so they can get a better rate of return on their money. It's a voluntary idea. I mean, government ought to not mandate this idea. But government ought to say, we ought to give you the opportunity, give you a chance, if you so desire.


In my proposal to Congress, I said, well, why don't you let a person set aside a third of their payroll tax into a personal savings account? Let me give you what that would mean for a younger worker who earned $35,000 over his or her lifetime. If you allow that person to set aside a third of their payroll taxes with a reasonable rate of growth on their money, that person earning that amount of money over their lifetime would have a nest egg of about $250,000 upon retirement. That would be a nice addition to other Social Security benefits. It's a part of the retirement plan. That would mean that person would have their own assets. Their asset wouldn't be tied up in a file cabinet in West Virginia. Their asset would be theirs to call their own, an asset they can pass on to a -- to whomever they choose -- a son, or a daughter.


These voluntary accounts would -- obviously, you'd have strict guidelines. You couldn't take your money and put it in the lottery. In other words, there's go-bys, there's a -- the investment vehicles are conservative in nature. You've got to make sure your -- we'll make sure the earnings aren't eaten up by hidden Wall Street fees; make sure there's good options to protect investments from sudden market swings on the eve of retirement. That happens all the time in the financial community, where if a person is getting ready to retire and wants to convert from stocks and bonds to annuities -- it happens all the time. You know what I'm talking about; you do it all the time in advising people.


These accounts will offer straightforward investment choices that are easy to understand. And I'm not talking about something new here. This isn't a new invention. In Ohio -- if you're from Ohio, you know what I'm talking about -- thousands of government employees at the state, county and local level have personal retirement accounts as part of their retirement system. I just went to South Carolina; all new state employees can choose between their traditional retirement plan and a personal retirement account, with a conservative mix of bonds and stocks to deliver a better rate of return for them.


I don't know if you know this, or not -- Congress knows it -- federal employees, including members of the United States Congress, have the option of taking some of their money and putting them into a conservative mix of bonds and stocks. They've got the opportunity to do that. Do you know why they gave themselves the opportunity? Because they want to get a better rate of return on their money. I believe if this opportunity to put aside personal savings account -- money in a personal savings account is good enough for the United States Congress, it's good enough for working people all across the United States. (Applause.)


Do you know what's really interesting about today's society? Some of you older fellows out there probably didn't spend much time talking about 401(k)s, when we were in our 20s -- or IRAs. I mean, the investment world has changed, hasn't it? It really has. I mean, there's a lot of young people who are comfortable with the idea of taking some of their own money and watching it grow. They're used to making decisions about their money. I mean, after all, the world really has changed when it comes to retirement plans and companies trusting people with their own decision-making. Offering young workers a 1930's-era retirement system is like trying to persuade them that vinyl LPs are better than iPods. (Laughter.)


Voluntary personal accounts are a way of bringing Franklin Roosevelt's promises of retirement into the 21st century. Creating accounts will give children and grandchildren a chance to replace a burden of uncertainty with new opportunity. Instead of leaving their full retirement, all their retirement in the hands of future politicians, younger workers will be able to take part of their retirement in their own hands. I like that idea.


Instead of sending their money to Washington so politicians can spend it, younger workers will be able to put part of their money into an account they own that nobody can take away from them. Instead of forfeiting years of Social Security contributions if they die before retirement, which happens in the current system, younger workers would have peace of mind that their personal accounts could be passed on to a loved one. (Applause.)


My administration works hard to spread ownership throughout America. I want more people owning their own home, I want more people owning their own small business, I want more people owning a piece of their retirement, because I know that when a person owns something they have a vital stake in the future of this country. And ownership should not be confined to just a few people in our society. Owning an asset and being able to pass it on to your son or daughter should not be the purview of a few. In this great land, ownership ought to be spread to everybody -- every single person.


As Wright Noll will tell you, the power of compound interest is important, as well. He sees that every month in the checks he gets. Members of Congress need to listen to the people. A lot of people in America now understand we have a problem. A lot of people are sorting through the data. They're listening to the debate. They're hearing all the noise coming out of Washington. But they're hearing we got a problem. I'm going to keep talking about it over and over again because I want the people to understand the stakes of doing nothing.


Older Americans are beginning to hear loud and clear that if you get your check nothing changes. And that's important for our citizens to hear. I'm sure some of you all have got a mom or a dad wondering what old -- why is George W. talking about this. I want to make -- just tell him, make sure I get my check. (Laughter.) You'll get your check. You'll get your check.


There are some folks around this town trying to scare you because they don't want to see anything happen. But our citizens who count on Social Security will get their check. Baby boomers like me, we're fixing to retire, and there's a lot of us. This is an important issue for us, but it's really an important issue for your children and grandchildren.


We have an obligation to save and strengthen this important program for generations of Americans to come. And when Congress acts, there will be plenty of credit for everybody involved. And when they do, our children and grandchildren will one day look back and be grateful that our generation made the difficult choices and the necessary choices to renew the great promise of the Social Security system for the 21st century.


Thank you all for giving me a chance to come by. (Applause.)


END 10:08 A.M. EDT

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Guest Kenny

Bush Proposes Slowing Growth of Social Security Benefits for Future Retirees


Democrats call it a "cut." Compared to what?


President Bush announced April 28 that he is embracing a proposal to address Social Security's financial shortfall by slowing the growth of future benefits for higher-income and middle-income workers, but not for lower-income workers.


Bush said, "I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get." Democrats called the proposal a deep benefit cut. But which side is right? Would benefits be equal, or would they be cut?


Both sides have a claim to accuracy, but neither is giving the full story and thus leaving citizens confused. The fact is that the current Social Security benefit formula would cause benefits for future retirees nearly to double in buying power over the next 75 years, even after adjusting for inflation.


What Bush is proposing is a plan that freezes benefits at their current buying power for upper-income workers, while other workers would continue to see benefits rise faster than inflation.


Compared to the buying power of benefits paid to today's retirees, that would not be a "cut" for anybody. Compared to the rising level of benefits provided by the current formula, that would mean a "cut" for upper-income and middle-income workers. And for the bottom 30 percent of earners, those making $25,000 a year, there would be no "cut" at all.

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Guest Human

The Social Security Debate was a no starter to begin with, and I will tell you why?



Me being Old Net, as well as others in my group that I got to volunteer their time with were exhausted from the last election.


You see since we do know the net, we scoured every Board, in every location on the net. We also concentrated on the sites that the general public goes too, whether it would be the religious sites, democrat sites, or radio sites.


After the elections my group, just disbanded and let the regular political infrastructure play with this issue, as well other upcoming issues.


Oh!!!! don't get me wrong, Me, and my group had our own Political Pet Projects out there, and some times People would understand, and at other times it would go in one ear, and out the other. That's the Nature Of Politics.



Right now both the Republican, and Democrat Old Net Users are taking a very well deserved break. You Guys, and Gals are on your own.

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I appreciate your posts human. They give a better definition on what is really going on out there.


In my opinion, the media is taking a rest too.


I guess human interest stories about a girl skipping out of her wedding, and celebrity trial outcomes are what get's the nod.


I am dedicating my personal time to waking people up.

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Guest Human

Good Luck!! That's going to be alot of work. I will tell you something, when I was in congress the Democrats told me that most people will follow the water current “no matter who is in charge of diverting the water".


Either they don't know any better, or are being mislead, or they just simply don't care.



As for the media, look at what the people generally use?


Refdesk, or the major isp's news networks, or sites like google. Most of the news that I see out there which deals with some political, some international, as well as governmental is at the very least 1 week to 6 months old.

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest DCCC @Stake

President Bush got that look for himself when he visited upstate New York on his privatization road show, which just happens to be the home of NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds. Note the irony of President Bush's statement in contrast to the position of the man in charge of Republican campaigns in the House, found in this AP story:


"Bush, who has had trouble selling his ideas not only to Democrats but also to moderate Republicans, urged his fellow members of the GOP to resist pressure from constituents and support him. He has proposed allowing workers under age 55 to establish investment accounts to partially fund their future benefits, as well as slowing the growth of the traditional benefit check for all but the poorest workers by changing the method in which that growth is calculated.


"'I think more and more people recognize there's a problem and people are going to say, `Go do something about it,' Bush told an audience in Greece, N.Y. 'And those who obstruct reform - no matter what party they're in - will pay a political price, in my judgment.'


"The community is in the district of Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., one of several House members from the state who have been under pressure from citizen and labor groups that oppose Bush's ideas.


"During his 2004 congressional race, Reynolds attacked his challenger, Jack Davis, for saying that 'some changes are going to have to be made' in Social Security. Reynolds, a Bush supporter and Republican fundraiser, now says he respects the president's willingness to take on the issue, but has refrained from coming out directly in favor of Bush's ideas."

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Guest Billionaires for Bush

Send Social Security checks to poor people, seniors and the disabled and they just waste it on food. Wouldn't you rather have your pension funds managed by United Airlines? Wal-Mart can lend a helping hand.

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Reuters has reported that President Bush "plans a renewed push to rein in the costs of entitlement programs after the elections." Specifically, Bush wants to overhaul Social Security by adding private accounts. But this effort is nothing more than a last-minute political gambit to motivate Bush's conservative base. Americans overwhelmingly rejected the administration's previous efforts to dismantle the program, and Bush has made no indication that he is willing to take a different approach this time. Under the plan Bush proposed in April 2005, benefits would be cut for everyone but "the bottom 30 percent of earners, or those who make less than about $20,000 currently." Bush tried to sell his plan to Americans by saying that the Social Security program is facing a "crisis." But according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Social Security will be able to pay all benefits through 2052. Even after this date, the CBO found, the program will be able to pay a higher benefit than that received by current retirees. Additionally, the first ten years of Bush's plan would cost approximately $2 trillion. According to an early October AP-Ipsos poll, Social Security ranked below the situation in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, and health care in voters' priorities.

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Guest Mary in Miami

Do not touch Social Security. Most people live to old age and need support during their last 20-30 years of life. Everyone does not have the means to save money for their retirement. Some people don't have any children that they can turn to in their old age, and even if they do have a child, that person will be living their own life at adulthood...Alot of working class people live paycheck to paycheck and cannot save any money for retirement. We need livable wages. $10 hourly. Many large companies are hiring only temporary part time employees...There's no way these workers can save any money for retirement. DON'T TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY.

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Since Social Security is financed primarily on a pay-as-you-go basis, demographic trends are very important. The fact that the baby boom has begun to retire, however, is not news. These individuals were born between 1946 and 1964, so the actuaries have known of their whereabouts for a long time. As a result, the increasing ratio of beneficiaries to workers due to the aging of the population is virtually identical to that described in earlier Trustees Reports. As in earlier reports, this increasing ratio – rising from 34 beneficiaries per 100 workers today to 51 in the future – causes the cost rate of the system to rise above the income rate.


While headlines have focused on the squiggles in 2010 and 2011, the big picture is that for the last two decades the cost rate has been below the income rate and Social Security has run cash flow surpluses. These surpluses began in response to reforms enacted in 1983 and were scheduled to continue for several more years. Because of the recession-induced decline in payroll taxes and surge in benefit claims, the cost rate slightly exceeded the income rate in 2010 and 2011. The pattern is scheduled to reverse itself for the years 2012-2014, after which the cost rate starts to exceed the income rate on a steady basis. At that time, Social Security will have to regularly tap the interest on trust fund assets to cover benefits. And in 2025, taxes and interest will fall short of annual benefit payments, so the government will be required to draw down trust fund assets to meet benefit commitments. The trust fund will be exhausted in 2037.


Assuming no new legislation, what happens in 2037 when the trust fund is exhausted? Some commentators describe the program as "bankrupt," leaving the impression that Social Security has no money at all. But payroll tax revenues continue rolling in. So the system will still have enough revenue to pay 78 percent of currently legislated benefits after exhaustion of reserves in 2037. Relying on only current tax revenues, however, means that in 2037 the replacement rate – benefits relative to pre-retirement earnings – for the typical worker would drop from 36 percent to 29 percent. (Note that the replacement rate for those claiming at age 65 is already scheduled to decline from 41 percent today to 36 percent because of the ongoing increase in the Full Retirement Age from 65 to 67 enacted in 1983.)


Over the next 75 years, Social Security's long-run deficit is projected to equal 1.92 percent of covered payroll earnings. That figure means that if payroll taxes were raised immediately by 1.92 percentage points – 0.96 percentage point each for the employee and the employer – the government would be able to pay the current package of benefits for everyone who reaches retirement age at least through 2086.


A lasting fix for Social Security would require additional changes. Solutions that focus just on the next 75 years sometimes involve the buildup of trust fund assets in the near term and the sale of those assets to pay benefits in the out years. Since the trust fund would have no further bonds to sell in the 76th year under this approach, the program would suddenly be short of money. Lasting solvency would require either a pay-as-you-go system with substantially higher payroll tax rates/lower benefits or the buildup of a trust fund larger than that required for 75-year solvency, the returns from which could cover some of the costs. Realistically, eliminating the 75-year shortfall should probably be viewed as the first step toward long-run solvency.


Social Security's shortfall looks even less daunting when outlays are shown as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The cost of the program is projected to rise from 4.8 percent of GDP today to 6.0 percent of GDP in 2040, where it remains even after the retirement of the baby boom. The reason why costs as a percent of GDP more or less stabilize – while costs as a percent of taxable payroll keep rising – is that taxable payroll is projected to decline as a share of total compensation due to continued growth in fringe benefits.



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Guest Tea Party Patriot

We need to put Social security in an account that cannot be touched. Banks can borrow from it at an interest. But, no other Agency can claim it.

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Amen to that.




We need to put Social security in an account that cannot be touched. Banks can borrow from it at an interest. But, no other Agency can claim it.

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