New budget leaves unanswered Social Security questions
November 20, 1999
Web posted at: 10:10 p.m. EST (0310 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Now that Congress has passed a federal
budget for fiscal year 2000, did it do anything to ensure
that Social Security will be solvent when baby boomers
John Rother, of the AARP, says the answer is no. "Congress
missed the chance to save Social Security this year," he
said. "(It) did not really debate how to keep the program
strong in the future."
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri) said,
"Despite the chest beating, the button wearing and the
commercial airing of the Republicans, this Congress failed to
extend the life of Social Security by one day."
Republicans promised not to use the Social Security surplus
to finance additional government spending.
White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace reports on the Social Security surplus and the budget deal
"We didn't dip into the Social Security trust fund," said
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois).
So who's right?
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is calculating
whether the new spending plan will require dipping into the
trust fund. The answer won't be reached until next week at
It is already known, however, that $130 billion of income
taxes collected from Social Security benefits will likely go
toward reducing the national debt. Some experts say that
might help extend the life of Social Security down the road.
"The more debt retirement we do now, the better the
government will be positioned to meet its obligations later,"
said Carol Cox Wait of the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget. "It's very simple logic."
Television adds aired by the Republicans attacking the
Democrats and the president's budget plans
Those obligations are growing quickly. In the not-too-distant
future, the number of workers paying into Social Security
won't be enough to offset the number of retiring baby boomers
President Clinton proposes using a projected budget surplus
to pay down the national debt, and then reinvesting the
interest saved on the payment. Money from the reinvestment
would go toward extending the life of Social Security.
Republicans advocate placing extra Social Security tax
revenues into so-called lockboxes, instead of using it to
pay down the national debt. The locked away money would
be used only to extend Social Security benefits.
Gephardt: "Despite the chest beating, the button wearing and the commercial airing of the Republicans, this Congress failed to extend the life of Social Security by one day"
Budget analysts say more politically difficult reforms than
what either party is proposing are necessary.
"The only way you can save Social Security is either to
raise the taxes to pay benefits in future years or to modify
the benefits that we promise people," said Wait.
The future of Social Security, it seems, is up to the next
president -- and the next Congress.
White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace contributed to this