Re the Nov. 23 editorial "Maybe Not the Third Rail":

Social Security can be made solvent indefinitely by adopting some simple changes: See the Social Security actuaries' "scoring" of the bill that Sen. Bob Kerrey and I introduced in March 1998 and reintroduced (S. 21) on the first day of the 106th Congress. Here is how.

First, use an accurate cost-of-living adjustment. The present consumer price index overstates inflation by about eight-tenths of a percentage point.

Second, "modernize" Social Security by including all newly hired state and local workers and by taxing Social Security benefits as you would tax income from private pensions.

Third, continue to increase gradually the "normal retirement" age. That age will, starting in about a month, gradually increase to age 67 by the mid-2020s. We suggested going to age 70 by 2070--a change that should be put in context. Three-fourths of workers retire before age 65; under our bill they still could. And those who retire at 70 in 2070 can expect to live another 17 years; about two more years in retirement than workers who now retire at age 65.

Fourth, personal savings accounts can be established without necessarily diverting payroll taxes needed to fund current outlays for Social Security. In our bill we provide for voluntary personal savings accounts (equal to 2 percent of wages) by coupling the changes noted above with a return to a pay-as-you-go payroll tax schedule. It all works out actuarially with a combined employee-employer payroll tax rate of 10.4 percent (two percentage points lower than current law) until about 2030, and a rate slightly above current law after 2050.


U.S. Senator (D-N.Y.)