The debates are heated on Capitol Hill. To reform or not to reform, and if so, how? According to the director of Texas A&M's Private Enterprise Research Center, something must be done soon.
"The social security revenues, beginning in 2008, are going to be falling in terms of relative to the cost," according to Thomas Saving. "By 2017, social security is going to be run into deficit."
Saving has advised Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush about the state of the system.
"We don't try to tell them what to do about it," said Saving. "It's their job to tell them what to do. That doesn't mean that myself, as a private citizen...I've been pressing for personal accounts before the president started thinking about them."
And it is those personal accounts at the center of this debate. President Bush and fellow Republicans want to let younger workers invest part of their income to help cushion future, inevitable benefit cuts. It would be up to individuals whether they privatize their plan.
"No past social security reform has ever been optional, by the way," said Saving. "But with every reform proposal that's really seriously being considered at the moment, the personal accounts are optional."
But recent polls show a drastic drop in public support for the President's reforms. Democrats are supporting a boost in personal savings outside the federal retirement program. Republicans say the opposition has no real plan to speak of, unlike the President.
"It's about whether you want government to be in charge or if you want to be in charge as individuals," said Saving. "I think that's what's polarized this thing. The most important thing in all of this is that the current system is highly uncertain. People talk about risk in the private system. The current system is definitely risky."
And the lines have been drawn in just the latest party-line debate.
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