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Social Security - The Future Of Social Security

changes received bush medicare

From its modest beginnings, Social Security has grown to become an essential facet of modern life. In 1940 slightly more than 222,000 people received monthly Social Security benefits. In 2002, 39.2 million people received Old Age and Survivors Insurance, 7.2 million received disability insurance, and 41.1 million were covered by Medicare. One in seven individuals received a Social Security benefit, and more than 90 percent of all workers were covered by Social Security. As of 2003, the SSI program had nearly doubled in size since its inception in 1974.

By the 1980s the Social Security Program faced a serious long-term financing crisis. President RONALD REAGAN appointed a blue-ribbon panel, known as the Greenspan Commission, to study the issues and recommend legislative changes. The final bill, signed into law in 1983 (Pub. L. 98-21, 97 Stat. 65), made numerous changes in the Social Security and Medicare Programs; these changes included taxing Social Security benefits, extending Social Security coverage to federal employees, and increasing the retirement age in the twenty-first century.

By the 1990s, however, concerns were again raised about the long-term financial viability of Social Security and Medicare. Various ideas and plans to ensure the financial stability of these programs were put forward. The budget committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate established task forces to investigate proposals for Social Security reform. Other task forces, such as one established by the National Conference of State Legislatures, investigated the impact of Social Security reform on interests at the state and local levels. By the end of the 1990s, the federal government had achieved a budget surplus, and President BILL CLINTON and some members of Congress advocated use of the surplus to save Social Security. However, no political consensus as to what changes should be made had emerged by the end of the 1990s.

The issue of Social Security was at the center of a major debate between GEORGE W. BUSH and AL GORE during the 2000 presidential election debates. Bush advocated then, as he did after assuming the presidency, that employees who pay into the Social Security system should be allowed to pay the funds into personal retirement accounts. Under this proposal, employees would have the option of converting these funds into other investments, such as stock. However, during the first three years of his presidency, Bush did not successfully establish this initiative.

As of December 2002, the annual cost of Social Security represented 4.4 percent of the gross domestic product. The Social Security Administration predicted that the OASDI tax income would fall short of outlays by 2018, and the OASDI trust fund was predicted to be exhausted by 2042, though some commentators refuted this finding. The total combined OASDI assets in 2002 amounted to $1.378 trillion.

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