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Social Security outlook not as bad as some say

-- Los Angeles Times - July 28

Posted: Monday, August 06, 2001

President Bush's commission on Social Security reform has a long way to go if it hopes to forge a national consensus on how to keep the system solvent. The interim report adopted by the 16-member bipartisan panel drew heavy fire for what critics say is its panic-inducing exaggeration of Social Security's problems and its bias toward diverting some payroll taxes to personal investment accounts. ...

Things are not as bleak as the commission suggests, and personal investment accounts wouldn't do much to keep Social Security healthy. ...

... Social Security's trustees are required by law to peer far into the future, and they're required to be conservative in their guesses about what lies ahead. That means they are likely to underestimate income while overestimating payouts. ... The point is that the numbers being worked with are not an error-proof guide to the future, but only estimates. ...

The White House's response is that if Congress had not ducked acting on Social Security no commission would have been needed. Fair enough, except that Bush is determined to see some payroll taxes diverted to personal investment accounts, an idea all of his commissioners are pledged to support. So far, though, neither they nor Bush has explained how cutting Social Security's income would make the system stronger. If anything, that would only serve to bring closer the dark day of reckoning the commission warns about.



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