Debating Social Security

May 4, 2000

It's a travesty of American politics that one of the most important political issues is rarely discussed in a presidential campaign. I'm talking about Social Security. Pundits long ago called it the "third rail" of American politics. Touch it and you die.

But that may change in this presidential campaign. Al Gore and George W. Bush will bring two different views to the presidential debates. Political commentator Gerald Seib argues that Social Security is an issue "too hot to not handle."

Al Gore's position is easy to describe: he won't change the system. He is betting that people feel good about the system since we are currently running a surplus. But good times won't hold back a demographic tidal wave that will bankrupt the system unless changes are made.

George W. Bush plans to give a speech next month explaining his view that the solution is to give younger workers an opportunity to invest part of their Social Security taxes into individual retirement accounts. These superior returns should help replenish the Social Security pool down the road.

The Social Security trustees recognize that by the year 2015, benefits being paid out to the leading edge Baby Boomers will exceed the taxes taken in. By 2026, the cost of benefits will outstrip both the taxes coming in and the interest earned by the trust fund. And by 2039, the trust fund assets will be exhausted.

Obviously something must be done. The question is whether the voters will allow Social Security to be changed. In the past, Social Security was an issue that was too hot to handle. This election cycle, one candidate is betting that Social Security has become an issue that is too hot not to handle. We will see.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.