Thursday, November 04, 2004

Social Security in the President's Press Conference

There were some encouraging statements about Social Security reform this morning from the President's press conference. Here's the first question on the subject:

Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, you talked once again this morning about private accounts in Social Security. During the campaign you were accused of planning to privatize the entire system. It has been something you've discussed for some time. You've lost some of the key Democratic proponents, such as Pat Moynihan and Bob Kerrey in the Congress. How will you proceed now with one of the key problems, which is the transition cost -- which some say is as much as $2 trillion -- how will you proceed on that? And how soon?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I made Social Security an issue -- for those of you who had to suffer through my speeches on a daily basis; for those of you who actually listened to my speeches on a daily basis -- you might remember, every speech I talked about the duty of an American President to lead. And we have --we must lead on Social Security because the system is not going to be whole for our children and our grandchildren.

And so the answer to your second question is, we'll start on Social Security now. We'll start bringing together those in Congress who agree with my assessment that we need to work together. We've got a good blueprint, a good go-by. You mentioned Senator Moynihan. I had asked him prior to his -- to his passing, to chair a committee of notable Americans to come up with some ideas on Social Security. And they did so. And it's a good place for members of Congress to start.

The President must have the will to take on the issue -- not only in the campaign, but now that I'm elected. And this will -- reforming Social Security will be a priority of my administration. Obviously, if it were easy it would have already been done. And this is going to be hard work to bring people together and to make -- to convince the Congress to move forward. And there are going to be costs. But the cost of doing nothing is insignificant to -- is much greater than the cost of reforming the system today. That was the case I made on the campaign trail, and I was earnest about getting something done. And as a matter of fact, I talked to members of my staff today, as we're beginning to plan to -- the strategy to move agendas forward about how to do this and do it effectively.
Here's what I wrote toward the end of my post last week:

I believe that the President should submit some plan to Congress that restores the system to solvency--whether the Commission's Model 2, another plan that has been scored by the actuaries, or something better--to restart the bipartisan reform process.
Let's hope the White House follows through, that there is a bipartisan willingness to engage on the issue in Congress, and that progress is made as soon as possible.

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