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Social Security in 2005

President Bush separates two issues: privatization and viability

"Ownership Society"

pros: might encourage more saving; might encourage more work; builds on success of 401(K) plans; investment options limited to low-risk funds; reduce reliance on regressive payroll tax, particularly to pay for transition

cons: transitional deficit; risk of poor investment performance; intense opposition

alternative: add-on accounts; potential compromise, never got traction

Changing from wage indexing to price indexing

wage growth = inflation (price growth) plus productivity growth

Slows growth of benefits, particularly when productivity growth is high (but then you may not need to slow them)

retirement age never on the table--Gore in 2000, AARP in 2005

proportion of work force engaged in physical labor is about 20 percent and falling

alternatives: tax increases now--did not work when tried before; tax increases or benefit cuts later; pray for productivity

outlook: political situation appears hopeless, economic outlook promising in terms of productivity, alarming in terms of longevity