Framing the Social Security Debate: Values, Politics, and Economics

Publication Year



In his 1998 State of the Union address, President Clinton challenged Americans to a public debate about how to fix the long-term financial problems of Social Security. This annual volume of the National Academy of Social Insurance provides a framework for that debate. Competing reform proposals reflect contrasting views about the nature of the Social Security problem and how to solve it. This book examines issues about privatization, national savings and economic growth, the political risks and realities in reforms, lessons from private pensions developments in the United States, and the efforts of other advanced industrial countries to adapt their old-age pensions to an aging population. It also poses philosophical arguments about collective versus individual responsibility and the implications of market risks and political risks for stable and secure retirement income policy. The contributors are Theo Angelis, Michael J. Boskin, Peter A. Diamond, John Geanakoplos, Hugh Heclo, Karen C. Holden, Howell Jackson, Olivia Mitchell, Dallas L. Salisbury, Lawrence H. Thompson, Kent Weaver, and Stephen P. Zeldes. Copublished with the National Academy of Social Insurance.

Brookings Institution Press
Washington DC
Full text



1. Introduction / 1

Alicia H. Munnell

2. Values, Politics, and Economics in Social Security Reform / 29

A Framework for Considering Social Security Reform / 29

Michael J. Boskin

The Economics of Social Security Reform / 38

Peter A. Diamond

A Political Science Perspective on Social Security Reform / 65

Hugh Heclo

3. Pensions and Savings -- In What Form? / 95

Employers and Individuals Must Do More Today to Allow Retirement Tomorrow / 95

Dallas L. Salisbury

4. Social Security: In What Form? / 113

Individual Uncertainty in Retirement Income Planning under Different Public Pension Regimes / 113

Lawrence H. Thompson

Would a Privatized Social Security System Really Pay a Higher Rate of Return? / 137

John Geanakoplos, Olivia Mitchell, and Stephen P. Zeldes

Insuring against the Consequences of Widowhood in a Reformed Social Security System / 157

Karen C. Holden and Cathleen Zick

5. Insights from Social Security Reform Abroad / 183

The Politics of Pensions: Lessons from Abroad / 183

R. Kent Weaver

6. Public Investment in Private Markets / 287

Investing Public Money in Private Markets: What Are the Right Questions? / 287

Theodore J. Angelis

7. Public Opinion and the Politics of Reforming Social Security / 355

Myths and Misunderstandings about Public Opinion toward Social Security / 355

Lawrence R. Jacobs and Robert Y. Shapiro

The Political Feasibility of Social Security Reform / 389

R. Douglas Arnold

Contributors / 431

Conference Program / 433

Index / 439