"Social Security is one of the greatest achievements of the American government and one of the deepest commitments to the American people. For more than six decades, it has protected our elderly against poverty and assured young people of a more secure future. It must continue to do this important work for decades to come.
Yet, it has been apparent for many years that Social Security, itself, is becoming insecure. Social Security was designed for an era when few Americans lived much past the age of 65, and when families of three or four children were more than the exception.
When Social Security was created there was about 40 workers paying Social Security taxes for every one retiree receiving benefits. Today, there are three workers for every retiree; soon, there will be two. Long life is a blessing. Smaller families are an individual choice. But the consequence of this blessing and this choice is that the Social Security payroll tax, which was once 2 percent, has now passed 12 percent.
Economists calculate that it will have to rise past 18 percent if the baby boomers are to receive the same benefits that Social Security has promised, unless we take steps soon to reform the way Social Security is financed.
The threat to the stability of Social Security has been apparent for decades. For years, political leaders have agreed that something must be done. But nothing has been done. We can postpone action no longer. Social Security is a challenge now; if we fail to act, it will become a crisis. We must save Social Security and we now have the opportunity to do so.
Our government will run large budget surpluses over the next 10 years. These surpluses provide an opportunity to move to a stronger Social Security system. "