Letter to Senator McConnell on Social Security Reform Comments

Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Tuesday, 09 August 2011 15:30
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator McConnell:

A recent article noted that you called for significant entitlement reform. You went on to say of Social Security that, "We have to adjust the trajectory of these very significant entitlement programs, or they're not going to be there at all."

With all due respect, this is not true. 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 a result, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038.

Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to slightly more than 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 more than 80 percent funded in subsequent decades hardly seems like a major problem that needs to be addressed in an economy with 9.1 percent unemployment. Furthermore, it is clearly inaccurate to say that it "not going to be there at all."

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.