Social Security options demand attention

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

President Bush's Commission to Strengthen Social Security unanimously approved recommendations this month that would allow younger workers -- if they wanted to --to invest a portion of their Social Security contributions in the stock market.

Both co-chairmen of the panel are Democrats, and one of them is the distinguished former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, which makes the historic nature of the panel's recommendations all the more so.

Rather than agree on a single option, the panel decided to send the president three separate proposals for private-investment accounts.

This will ignite a healthy debate over how best to modernize and improve Social Security for the 21st century. We hope that debate will be as free as possible from the political demagoguery that has so often characterized discussions in the past.

The acid test will be the congressional campaigns of the coming year. Many Democrats see the issue as their ticket back to a majority.

The truth is that doing nothing isn't an option, as every commissioner from both parties attests.

Moreover, private-investment accounts have proven that themselves in other countries such as Chile, where such a reform was instituted more than a decade ago. The alternative is for younger workers to remain with their 1 percent and 2 percent returns on their money in the current system. It is important to realize that any reform will be phased in gradually and that no one currently over age 55 will have his or her benefits adjusted under the reform.

The commission's work is a good start to the public debate and congressional consideration that will follow. We salute the president and his commission for undertaking this important work.

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