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Changing Social Security to Achieve Long-Term Solvency and Make Other Improvements: Background Factors, Issues, Options

By Peter W. Martin


For years those responsible for Social Security and policy analysts have acknowledged that the present statutory framework for determining and financing program benefits is unsustainable. Nonetheless, despite the work of Presidential commissions, countless Congressional hearings, proposals for reform advanced by individuals and groups across the political spectrum, changes to Social Security that would restore its fiscal balance into the foreseeable future have repeatedly been deferred or deflected by the nation\u27s law-makers. This paper aims to assist analysis of and reflection on the range of options for ensuring Social Security\u27s future while not adding yet another solvency proposal to the already ample supply. It begins with several background observations. These are followed by a discussion of personal (or private) accounts to which former President George W. Bush gave salience and which continue to be included among the talking points of politicians hostile to Social Security\u27s fundamental structure. Next the paper reviews the more likely program changes that would (unlike personal accounts) directly address Social Security\u27s long-term \u22deficit.\u22 That section is followed by one sketching possible revisions in the program\u27s benefit structure designed to achieve ends other than reducing Social Security expenditures. The paper concludes with some observations on the role that framing has played in past debates over Social Security\u27s future. Finally, there is an appendix explaining the central terms and components of the current program. It is provided for readers who might otherwise be unclear about the meaning or implications of changing Social Security\u27s \u22Primary Insurance Amount\u22 formula or its \u22Full Retirement Age.\u2

Topics: Social Security, Retirement, Poverty, Elder Law, Law and Gender, Social Welfare Law
Publisher: Scholarship@Cornell Law: A Digital Repository
Year: 2012
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