Greenspan Commission

Chapter 1


On December 16, 1981, President Reagan promulgated Executive Order 12335, which established the National Commission on Social Security Reform. The National Commission was created as a result of the continuing deterioration of the financial position of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the inability of the President and the Congress to agree to a solution, and the concern about eroding public confidence in the Social Security system.(1)

The National Commission is composed of fifteen members, eight Republicans and seven Democrats. Five members were selected by the President, on a bipartisan basis; five were selected by the Senate Majority Leader, in consultation with the Senate Minority Leader, on a bi-partisan basis; and five were selected by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in consultation with the House Minority Leader, on a bi-partisan basis.

The Executive Order provides that the National Commission should:

". . . review relevant analyses of the current and long-term financial condition of the Social Security trust funds; identify problems that may threaten the long-term solvency of such funds; analyze potential solutions to such problems that will both assure the financial integrity of the Social Security System and the provision of appropriate benefits; and provide appropriate recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the President, and the Congress."

In carrying out its mandate, the National Commission met nine times, on approximately a monthly basis. Because of the brevity of the time in which to complete its work, the National Commission held no public hearings. However, it reviewed the results of the many hearings, studies, and reports of other public bodies, including Congress, the 1979 Advisory Council on Social Security, and the 1981 National Commission on Social Security. The National Commission on Social Security Reform sought the advice of a number of experts and thoroughly examined a wide variety of alternative approaches.

Chapter 2 presents the major findings and recommendations of the National Commission. Chapter 3 deals with the financial status of the Medicare program. Additional Statements of individual members appear in Chapter 4.

The appendices to this report contain the following materials: Executive Order 12335, establishing the National Commission; Executive Order 12397, modifying the original Executive Order by extending the reporting date by 15 days; Executive Order 12402, giving a further extension in the reporting date (until January 20, 1983); the White House press release of December 16, 1981, announcing the membership of the National Commission; the Charter of the National Commission; the President's letter to the National Commission; a list of meetings held; a list of the technical memorandums prepared for the use of the members during their deliberations; a list of the prepared presentations made by experts who appeared before the National Commission; a roster of the staff; a detailed description of the financial status of the Social Security program; and a detailed listing of possible options and their cost effects and basic tables which served as background material for the meetings.

(1) Throughout this report, the term "Social Security" will be used to denote the combination of the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program (OASDI) and the Medicare program, which consists of the Hospital Insurance program (HI) and the Supplementary Medical Insurance program (SMI). The National Commission decided to limit its policy recommendations to the OASDI program. The statutory Advisory Council on Social Security, appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in September 1982, is charged with studying the Medicare program.