Clinton launches yearlong debate on Social Security
March 21, 1998
Web posted at: 2:59 p.m. EDT (1459 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A national dialogue on how to fix the
country's ailing Social Security pension system got under way
Saturday, as President Clinton made a vigorous push to reform
the public pension system.
"By 2029, all the baby boomers will be 65 or over, and most
of them will be in the retirement system," said Clinton,
adding that if present trends continue, there will be only
two people working for every one person drawing benefits from
the system. Analysts say funds would run dry quickly under
"We do not need to put this off," he said. "We can solve it
with modest, far-sighted actions now that will have a huge
impact 20 or 30 years from now."
Clinton made his comments from Washington, via satellite, to
more than 1,000 citizens and lawmakers participating in an
afternoon town hall meeting in 10 cities. Earlier, Clinton
discussed Social Security in his weekly radio broadcast from
the Oval Office.
The video conference, "Americans Discuss Social Security,"
was funded by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts as
part of a $12.5 million nonpartisan campaign to get the
nation to discuss the program's future.
Audiences watched the video conference from 10 cities across the U.S.
As part of the effort, Pew released some results Friday from
a survey on America's perceptions of retirement.
The Pew campaign overlaps with Clinton's plan to promote 1998
as a year of public dialogue on Social Security.
Clinton: Booming economy can cushion reform
Nearly 44 million Americans receive Social Security benefits.
Without them, Clinton said, half of elderly Americans would
live in poverty. Money for the program is raised through
payroll taxes on active workers, and right now, there is more
than enough coming in.
But starting in about a decade, 77 million baby boomers will
retire, flooding the Social Security program. By 2029,
experts predict, there won't be enough money for all the
benefits that have been promised to retirees.
Clinton has called for comprehensive legislation to improve
Social Security's financial footing.
"This is no time to rest," he said in his weekly radio
address earlier Saturday. "It is a time to build. ... If we
act soon and responsibly we can strengthen Social Security in
ways that will not unfairly burden any generation."
||President Clinton encourages people to save for their own retirement
"Under presently conceivable circumstances ... "
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"In 2029, all the baby boomers will be 65 or over ... "
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Clinton has endorsed no specific changes to the retirement
program, but said he would convene a White House conference
on the issue in December with the goal of proposing
legislation in 1999.
He also has asked the American Association of Retired Persons
and the economic watchdog group Concord Coalition to sponsor
four regional town hall meetings, starting April 7 in Kansas
Lawmakers offer options for change
Clinton's promise to follow up next year by asking Congress
to bolster the Social Security system has roused activists
from Wall Street brokerage houses to senior citizens centers,
as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Key congressional budgeteers Sen. William Roth, R-Delaware, and Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, are promoting legislation that would test a new system of private investment accounts.
Senate Democrats Daniel Moynihan of New York and Bob Kerrey
of Nebraska this week proposed belt-tightening measures such
as raising the retirement age to 70 and increasing the amount
of wages subject to Social Security taxes.
Other cities participating in Saturday's town hall meeting
were Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boston; Boise, Idaho; Denver;
Lexington, Kentucky; Minneapolis; San Francisco; Tallahassee,
Florida; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
White House Correspondent John King contributed to this