Differing on the fine points, lawmakers from both parties continued pushing Sunday to turn the idea of private investment accounts into a viable solution for saving the Social Security system.
From predictions that such accounts could turn the next generation into millionaires to the more modest view that the money could help workers retire earlier, proponents stressed the need to create wealth in the system."At the end of 45 years of work, you would be amazed how much money that adds up to," Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Moynihan and Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., have proposed allowing workers to use 2 percent of the amount paid in payroll taxes for investment in the stock market or elsewhere. Moynihan said Sunday that employees could put the money into a thrift savings plan that would create a nest egg over time.
Kerrey, who appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation," added that such a system might even allow workers to retire earlier, such as at age 50, "as a consequence of having a sufficient amount of wealth to be able to do that."
Social Security now pays benefits to 44 million Americans, including retirees, the disabled and the families of working-age people who die.
Income from payroll taxes will be sufficient to pay benefits for another 14 years, when the Baby Boom generation starts to retire. But the system will need to dip into its surplus to continue paying those benefits and is projected to run out of money in 2029 without changes.
Republican Sen. Phil Gramm agreed that investments that create wealth could help save the Social Security system. The Texas senator's own proposal requires investment of 3 percent of the payroll tax in the stock market.
"I think if you don't use wealth creation to solve this problem, you're going to end up with big tax increases and huge benefit cuts and everybody is going to lose," said Gramm, who spoke to CBS.
Of the 68 million Americans with incomes under $30,000 in 1995, only 3 percent had opened individual retirement accounts.