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“Social Security at 75: The Legacy and Vision”

June 22, 2010  • Institute Contributor

On June 22, 2010, Lisa Mensah, Executive Director of Aspen IFS, moderated a high-level debate on the future of Social Security at the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) day-long forum, “Social Security at 75: The Legacy and Vision.” The debate featured Dean Baker, Co-director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum.

As efforts to tackle the United States fiscal deficit move forward, Social Security reform has been the topic of much discussion in policy circles around Washington, DC. With that backdrop, Mensah urged the participants to discuss the hot topics of the day, including Social Security’s solvency, adequacy, and long-term role in the fiscal health of the United States. 

Dean Baker asserted that the Social Security Trust Fund should remain in a “budget silo,” as dictated by law, affirming “we have an obligation to people who have contributed.”  Social Security’s finances pose a distant and minor problem, Baker continued, and efforts to conflate the United State’s long-term structural deficits and the solvency of Social Security are both intellectually dishonest and politically motivated.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin disagreed and proposed immediately slowing the growth of benefit outlays. Failure to act today would grandfather-in the retiring Baby Boomer generation, Holtz-Eakin explained, only acerbating Social Security’s long-term solvency concerns. Moreover, he took issue with Baker’s charactertization of a “budget silo,” imploring policymakers to consider the Social Security Trust Fund as part of the Federal unified budget.

More information about the panel debate and the National Academy of Social Insurance can be found here.