Press Release
Tuesday, June 08, 1999

WASHINGTON -- With the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means holding hearings today and tomorrow on plans to reform Social Security, The Concord Coalition commends the Members of Congress who had the courage to submit bipartisan Social Security proposals that are both fiscally responsible and generationally sound. Concord singled out for praise the sponsors of the Kolbe-Stenholm bill (21st Century Retirement Security Act, H.R.1793) and the Senate Bipartisan Social Security Agreement.

Concord Coalition Co-Chairs and former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Sam Nunn (D-GA) draw three conclusions in letters addressed to Congressmen Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), and Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH), John Breaux (D-LA), Bob Kerrey (D-NE) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). "First, changing demographics make the current pay-as-you-go benefit structure unsustainable. Absent change, the system will either burden future workers with steep tax hikes, or betray future retirees with deep benefit cuts.

"Second, there are only two roads to genuine reform, and a workable plan must pursue both. Reform must reduce Social Security's long-term burden by reducing its long-term costs. And it must make the remaining burden more bearable by increasing national savings, and hence the size of tomorrow's economic pie. Doing so requires the hard choices of fiscal discipline. In short, there are no magic bullets. … Third, the time for action is now. The longer reform is delayed, the worse the problem will become and the more draconian the solutions will be.

"The Concord Coalition commends your efforts because your plan recognizes each of these conclusions. We are particularly pleased that you have resisted the temptation to rely on speculative gains such as projected budget surpluses and higher market returns to close Social Security's fiscal gap. Either strategy is fraught with peril," Rudman and Nunn warn.

"The Concord Coalition supports the approach taken by Kolbe-Stenholm and by Breaux-Grassley-Gregg-Kerrey because both plans are powerful antidotes to the free lunch disease that is gripping the Social Security debate. Compared with the other proposals being considered, these plans come closest to meeting the Concord Coalition's criteria. They reduce future benefits on a progressive basis, modestly raise the eligibility age, provide a more accurate Consumer Price Index, create individually owned retirement accounts without relying on projected budget surpluses, and they have bipartisan support," said Concord Coalition Policy Director Robert Bixby.

"The Concord Coalition also commends Chairman Archer and all of the witnesses at this week's hearings for putting forth the specifics of their Social Security reform plans. The safest place is always on the sidelines. However, if the end result of the Social Security debate is to avoid all the hard choices, we might as well launch a new government program to find the fountain of youth because otherwise we will never be able to meet all of our future benefit obligations," Bixby said.