Striking a note of bipartisanship on one of the most divisive issues of the 1982 campaign, the chairmen of the congressional Social Security subcommittees yesterday agreed that tax increases and a reduction in the growth of benefits must be considered available options to shore up the old-age trust fund.
While continuing to object strongly to any acceleration of planned increases in the payroll tax--a move he said could put 2 million to 4 million Americans out of work--Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.) said, "We've got to shore up the system and I don't think we ought to get too bogged down or doctrinaire about just where."
"I think too many of us in the Congress have been talking about things that they're against," said Rep. J.J. (Jake) Pickle. The Texas Democrat, who chairs the House subcommittee, said that saving the system would "probably" mean an increase in taxes and "some change in the cost of living" adjustments that tie the growth in retirees' benefits to the consumer price index. "I think we may have to take a little hide and hair everywhere in order to make certain that the money's there."
Armstrong -- who chairs the Senate subcommittee and sits on President Reagan's advisory commission on Social Security -- and Pickle were interviewed on "Meet The Press" (NBC, WRC) yesterday. The bipartisan advisory commission projects that $150 billion to $200 billion must be found by 1990 to keep the system solvent.
Armstrong said the commission, to avoid polarizing the issue, should not recommend specific solutions unless Reagan, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) and perhaps groups outside government have agreed to them.
The legislators also agreed that federal workers and members of Congress should be tied into the Social Security system, though neither offered details.