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President's Social Security Commission Begins Work, And Touches Off Vigorous Interest Group Debate

on 8/22/01.

Former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and AOL Time Warner COO Richard Parsons spoke following a morning meeting of the President's Commission on Strengthening Social Security. The morning meeting was behind closed doors, but the commission had a public assembly scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The founders of Social Security "were thinking in terms of 75 years, and they did pretty well," said Moynihan at the noon press briefing. "And it's about time to think of the next 70." Describing this morning's work, Parsons said, "We formed two panels.because we have a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it in. One panel, which the Senator led, was just learning about some of the administrative problems. The other panel, which I led this morning, was focused on understanding what the range of options are in terms of carve- outs, carve-ins, benefit adjustments.

"We haven't formed any conclusions yet in terms of what we are going to recommend. So to try and answer questions is premature because we are just now trying to figure out what all the moving pieces are and how they can be assembled in such a way to give a responsible answer to the charge we've been given," Parsons said.

He added, "We are trying to figure out if we can, from within the contours of the Social Security system.make more certain the availability and payments of the benefits on a going-forward basis and create a system that is sustainable."

Heritage Foundation Releases Findings Backing Private Accounts.

The Heritage Foundation released three reports this morning on the future of Social Security, "All Americans desire income security and seek an to opportunity to build financial stability for their families," report author and Hispanic Business Roundtable research associate Naomi Lopez Bauman said in a study. "Rather than attempting to perpetuate an outdated Social Security system that excludes Hispanics from fully participating in the American dream, lawmakers should pursue reforms that promote private retirement savings and financial independence in old age."

Lopez-Bauman's study found that under current law, Hispanic married couples Social Security benefit level is $5,896, but under a plan with private retirement accounts (PRAs), assuming the rate of return is 5.5%, the same couples can expect $9,123 in benefits - or $6,696 in a mixed plan.

"Once the Social Security trust fund is gone, workers could face a bleak future in which the program can pay for only 70 percent of what it has promised. Or their representatives in Washington could spend that $5 trillion to establish a system of PRAs that could pay for much -- if not all -- of the difference," Heritage senior policy analyst David C. John writes in another report. "It is time to stop clouding the issue of Social Security reform with false claims and faulty math."

"Opponents claim that diverting as little as 2 percent of an individual's 10.6 percent payroll tax into a PRA would lead to a 40 percent reduction in that worker's Social Security benefits," says Jons. "This is simply wrong."

Interest Groups Sound Off On Commission.

Paul Beckner, the President of Citizens for a Sound Economy, addressed the reforms the commission was considering in its meeting, saying today, "Social Security is in a state of disrepair. To solve the problems inherent with Social Security, it is crucial that Americans have the chance to own their future.