Statement of Kenneth S. Apfel Commissioner of Social Security Concerning the Release of the 2000 Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees
is good news for the working men and women of America, who look
to the nation's Social Security program to provide a foundation
of income security in their retirement, or in the event of a family
breadwinner's death or disability. This year's Board
of Trustees Annual Report estimates that the Social Security
trust funds will remain solvent until 2037, instead of the 2034
date projected last year. Specifically, the Trustees estimate that
tax revenues will exceed expenditures until 2015, a year later than
estimated last year, and that beginning in 2025, trust fund assets
will be drawn down until the trust fund is exhausted in 2037.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the staff who worked so hard to develop the Report. Since the old age and survivors insurance trust fund was first created in 1940, the Board of Trustees has been responsible for providing an objective, non-partisan assessment … to Congress and to the American people … of the financial status of the Social Security program. This is the 60th report issued to Congress by the Social Security Board of Trustees.
I also believe it is important to note that this year's Board of Trustees Report continues a positive trend that began three years ago, when the projected trust fund exhaustion date was 2029.
The succession of favorable economic projections for the Social Security trust funds can be attributed to an unprecedented period of sustained economic growth, low unemployment, higher wages and low inflation. But while today's news is positive, we must not delude ourselves with wishful thinking-the Social Security program simply will not fix itself. And the strong economy we now enjoy gives us a window of opportunity to strengthen Social Security for future generations of workers.
As the Trustees Report notes, "we urge that the long-range deficits…be addressed in a timely way" because over the next 75 years, the Social Security system "is not in close actuarial balance…and does not meet the long-range solvency test." Without changes, the Social Security Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be able to pay only about 72 percent of benefits when the reserves are depleted in 2037.
We should take to heart the wisdom of the advice that the President has often stated: "the time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." It would be a mistake-a big mistake-to kick the can down the road twenty or thirty years and place an undue burden on our children and grandchildren.
In his State of the Union address, President Clinton proposed locking away Social Security surpluses, paying down the national debt and dedicating the interest savings to Social Security, which would extend solvency from 2037 to 2054. In addition, the President recommended investing a small share of the Trust Funds in equities to further extend the life of the Trust Funds. And he again called for bipartisan action to strengthen the Social Security program and make it actuarially sound over the long term.
be no better use of our present prosperity. Social Security represents
a financial foundation upon which both older Americans and young
families can plan their lives. The Social Security program has served
this country well for the past sixty-five years. Today, more than
152 million workers are covered under Social Security…and
each month the program pays benefits to about 45 million program
beneficiaries. Prudent action can ensure that this most successful,
most popular domestic government program of the past century will
continue to be there for all Americans throughout the 21st century.