The Honorable Rick Berg
323 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative Berg:
A recent article noted that you, along with other members of the Republican party, characterized Social Security as "a problem which needs to be addressed." In the article, you said, “We have a lot of attention today because I think the president has recognized this as an issue that should be talked about, should be debated. Everybody I’ve talked to back in North Dakota is concerned about Social Security, and I think it’s been used as a political football by different people, different interests all along.”
With all due respect, Social Security is not a problem that needs to be addressed right now. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now, Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As such, the Social Security trustees’ projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2036.
Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay close to 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on. There is little to debate about this. A program that is fully solvent for a quarter century and then is almost 80 percent funded in subsequent decades hardly seems like a major problem that needs to be addressed in an economy with 9.2 percent unemployment. As the discussion over Social Security continues, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.