Alan Greenspan, chairman of the president's special commission on Social Security, met with White House chief of staff James A. Baker III yesterday after telling reporters he would cancel Friday's final commission meeting if agreement on a specific plan to strengthen the system appeared unlikely.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), in the most comprehensive statement he has made on Social Security problems, listed seven provisions which he said could form the elements of an acceptable compromise plan to save the system.
Dole said he was not putting forth the seven provisions as a "Dole plan," but that he believed they could be part of a possible compromise by the commission and by Congress later.
The Social Security commission has been meeting for a year and has narrowed the differences between Democrats and Republicans among its 15 members on how to meet the Social Security financing crisis, as Greenspan emphasized in a luncheon speech at the National Press Club yesterday.
Beset by higher unemployment and worse inflation than anyone expected in 1977, when the Social Security financing mechanism was last changed, Social Security will run out of money to pay benefits some time in the next two years, some experts predict.
But the task of shoring it up has been made difficult by the fact that the Democrats generally favor new taxes as the main cure, while the Republicans in general favor benefit cuts. This has become an inflamed political issue, and the Democrats scored heavily against the GOP in the 1982 elections with charges that the Republicans wanted to slash benefits and hurt the aged.
Greenspan said that while commission members have reached agreement in many areas that will help solve the problem they are still undecided on issues that make up about a quarter of the financing problem.
Other members have said that gap could not be bridged unless the president and House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) provided guidelines on what they would find acceptable.
Yesterday, Greenspan met with Baker in search of guidelines and, contacted last night in New York, declined to say whether he had learned enough to justify another commission meeting.
Earlier, Dole, meeting with reporters, said the final elements of a compromise that conceivably could be acceptable included a six-month delay next year in the annual cost-of-living adjustment; some limit on the adjustment in later years, perhaps basing it on the growth of wages in years when the consumer price index rose faster than wages; compulsory coverage of new federal employes and all non-profit organization employes; some acceleration of the Social Security tax increases scheduled for 1985, 1986 and 1990; a gradual increase in the normal retirement age to 66, but only "looking 20 years down the road;" a slight decrease in the basic benefit for future retirees, and improvement of some benefits for women for equity.