Press Release
Tuesday, August 07, 2001

WASHINGTON - The Concord Coalition today praised the bipartisan effort of Representatives Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Charles Stenholm (D-TX) to inject a needed dose of reality into the Social Security reform debate by offering a plan that makes the kind of hard choices necessary to ensure the program's long-term fiscal sustainability and generational equity.

        “The Social Security debate has gone off-track. Leaders of both parties are in denial. Many Democrats are minimizing the enormous challenges facing the current system and many Republicans assume that these challenges can be met by simply creating personally owned retirement accounts. The Kolbe-Stenholm plan properly rejects this free lunch stand-off and faces up to the hard choices,” said Robert Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition.

         “As the President and Members of Congress turn their attention to crafting a Social Security reform plan, it is vital that they acknowledge, as Kolbe and Stenholm have done, that any credible plan must include gradual reductions in Social Security's long-term cost. Absent change, Social Security and other entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid will consume an ever-larger share of the budget and the economy as the baby boomers retire and Americans live longer lives. These benefit programs are a vital part of the nation's retirement security fabric. But they cannot grow faster than the economy forever. This fundamental issue must be addressed in any credible Social Security reform plan ¾ regardless of whether it creates personal accounts. To their credit, the authors of this plan haven't ducked the challenge,” Bixby said.

        “Not surprisingly, some have criticized this plan for making hard choices. Instead, the co-sponsors should be congratulated for proposing a plan that does not rely on rosy assumptions, like the existence of perpetual budget surpluses or robust market returns on personal accounts, to close Social Security's fiscal gap,” Bixby said.

         “There is no such thing as a ‘perfect' plan, and there is no such thing as a cost-free solution. Trade-offs will always need to be made. One need not agree with every element of the Kolbe-Stenholm plan to realize its valuable contribution to the Social Security reform debate. The Concord Coalition heartily commends Representatives Kolbe and Stenholm for recognizing the reality that hard choices need to be made, with or without personal accounts. We hope that the sponsors of other reform plans, and those who minimize the need for reform, will be as willing to acknowledge the consequences of their convictions,” Bixby said.

         The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grass roots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy.  Former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serves as president.