Presidential Radio Address - 12 March 2005
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Over the last few weeks, I have traveled across our nation and met with tens of thousands of you to discuss my plans for strengthening Social Security. I share a great responsibility with your representatives in Congress. We must fix the system permanently, so it will be there for our children and grandchildren.
I have been to 15 states, and I'm just getting started. On every visit, I am assuring those of you born before 1950 that Social Security will remain the same for you; no changes. No matter what the scare ads or politicians might tell you, you will get your checks. You grandparents also understand we have got to fix the holes in this vital safety net for future generations. I appreciate the wisdom of our seniors and I welcome your input on how to strengthen the system.
You younger workers know what is happening to Social Security. The present pay-as-you-go system is going broke. Huge numbers of baby boomers, like me, will be retiring soon, and we are living longer and our benefits are rising. At the same time, fewer workers will be paying into the system to support a growing number of retirees. Therefore, the government is making promises it cannot keep. Still, some folks are playing down the problem, and say we can fix it later. The fact is, we have got a serious problem and we need to fix it now. If you are in your 20s, or if you have children or grandchildren in their 20s, the idea of Social Security collapsing is no small matter, and it should not be a small matter to the Congress.
In 1983, Congress enacted what they thought was a 75-year fix to save Social Security from bankruptcy. This bipartisan solution turned out to be temporary because it did not address the system's fundamental flaws. Two years later, Social Security was headed out of balance again. Now some in Washington are talking about another 75-year fix, which means we will be back to the starting line a few years from now. We do not need a band-aid solution for Social Security. We want to solve this issue now and forever.
Putting off real reform makes fixing the system harder and more expensive. As one Democrat leader observed recently, "Every year we delay adds at least $600 billion to the cost of saving the system." And the Social Security trustees agree. Postponing reform will leave our children with drastic and unpleasant choices: huge tax increases that will kill jobs, massive new borrowing or sudden, painful cuts in Social Security benefits or other programs. Our children deserve better and we can give them better. I have told Congress all ideas are on the table, except raising the payroll tax rate. Some of the options available include indexing benefits to prices, rather than wages; changing the benefit formulas; raising the retirement age -- ideas Democrats and Republicans have talked about before.
Whatever changes we make, we must provide a better and stronger system for younger workers. And that is why I have proposed allowing younger Americans to place some of your payroll taxes in voluntary personal retirement accounts. You would have a choice of conservative bond and stock funds, with the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return than is possible under the current system. If you earn an average of $35,000 over your career, you can build up nearly a quarter-million dollars in your account, on top of your Social Security check. This would be real savings you own, a nest egg you could pass on to your children.
The American people did not place us in office to pass on problems to future generations and future Presidents and future Congresses. I will work with both parties to fix Social Security permanently. Social Security has been there for generations of Americans, and together we will strengthen it for generations to come.
Thank you for listening.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).