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Framing the Debate on Social Security's Future

Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A20

The March 4 editorial "Social Security Breakdown" correctly pointed out that the demographic predicament of Social Security must be dealt with. Refusal to address the problem would be, as The Post wrote, "closing [one's] eyes and sticking . . . fingers in [one's] ears."

To say that we started this national debate from the "wrong principle" is strange, however, because the president has said repeatedly that he wants a permanent fix that will put the program on a sustainable basis, protect Americans who are at or near retirement, and be fair to younger people. Personal accounts would make reform fair to younger generations, would protect the benefits of those older than 55 and would give Americans the ability to build a nest egg. Drawing on the powerful force of compound interest, personal accounts can reduce reliance on the outdated pay-as-you-go formula that can't deliver on its promises.

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Department of the Treasury


Why use the White House's language when describing the private/personal savings/investing accounts the president has proposed as part of Social Security reform? True, President Bush "has called for everyone younger than 55 to be allowed to divert as much as 4 percent of their income subject to Social Security taxation into individual accounts in exchange for a reduction in their guaranteed benefits" ["Bush Rejects Delay, Prepares Escalated Social Security Push," news story, March 3], but the devil is in the wording.

The White House wording suggests that somehow young workers' investments are forbidden now and should be allowed in the future.

But more important, the "4 percent" doesn't sound like a lot of money; the president has repeatedly called this "a small portion" of income, but this "small portion" is almost two-thirds of a worker's contribution to the Social Security trust fund. That's a big chunk of money to take out of a system that more or less works to be put into a scheme whose details have not even been decided.


Copiague, N.Y.

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