Social Security Debate Draws Fire

July 24, 2001 ( - A White House commission on Social Security reform met today amid demonstrations by protestors who say that the panel is exaggerating the system?s problems in order to promote private investment accounts.

At the meeting today the commission approved a staff-written draft. The report, which has drawn fire from critics as a scare tactic, says that by 2016 the government will either have to:

  • raise taxes
  • cut spending on other government programs
  • borrow money from financial markets
  • or reduce benefits

in order to fulfill Social Security obligations.

The panel plans to make its recommendations later this year.

Taking Sides

“Critics are assuming facts that are not in evidence,” according to commission co-chairman Dick Parsons, chief operating officer at AOL Time Warner, who said an interim commission report on the system’s financial system was “not intended to scare people”, but to let people know Social Security was “not sustainable in its current form.”

“The report uses language of crisis to frighten people into abandoning Social Security,’ Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) said in a statement. “It is biased, misleading and — in many places — flat out wrong.”

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) claims the panel was stacked with members that favor privatization of Social Security ? an approach he says will “result in benefit cuts.”

Responding to those comments in a news conference, commission co-chairman and former Democratic Senator Patrick Moynihan simply said “That’s nonsense.”

Additional protests took place in 40 states across the country in opposition to the commission and to support the existing guaranteed benefit system, according to the Democratic National Committee.

The commission plans to meet again in late August and has scheduled a public hearing on private investment accounts for Social Security in September.