An Incremental Approach to Social Security Reform

Alex Brill | Testimony before the Senate Finance Committee

Chairman Baucus remarked at the opening of the first hearing in this series that “[a]ddressing our deficits and debts is an economic issue, a national security issue and a moral issue.” He went on to say that “we have a moral obligation to leave this place better than we found it, but today, our fiscal challenges prevent us from meeting that responsibility.”1

Some policymakers and lawmakers will argue that Social Security is separate and distinct from our broader fiscal challenges. I disagree. I believe that immediately addressing the challenges facing the Social Security program offers an opportunity to improve our country’s fiscal soundness, lift an undue burden from future generations, and strengthen our economy’s long-run growth prospects—all objectives consistent with and complementary to the purpose of tackling our deficit and debt challenges. Congress, in addressing Social Security now, could take an important step toward achieving public policies that reflect the need of our country to live within its means. I wholeheartedly agree and am greatly concerned by the willingness demonstrated by Congress to consistently deficit-finance federal government spending in excess of our economy’s rate of growth. A broad spectrum of projections indicates that without substantive legislative action large deficits will continue for years to come, which means that we will become increasingly dependent on foreign lenders’ willingness to lend and are imposing an ever-increasing burden on future generations who must service that debt.

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