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Op-Ed: How to Save Social Security Without Privatizing or Cutting Benefits

This article was authored by Andy Puzder and Terrence Keeley for the Wall Street Journal on February 29, 2024


The U.S. could learn from Canada’s example of wise investment.


How about a plan that strengthens Social Security trust funds while letting all Americans earn more generous retirement benefits? Not what you normally hear when people discuss Social Security, right? Conversations tend to be about shrinking benefits and increasing taxes as the system careens toward bankruptcy. It turns out, however, that we can vastly improve Social Security and retirement income over the long run without doing either. By adopting market-based solutions, Americans can enjoy more financial security in their golden years.

 

Against the backdrop of a $6.5 trillion federal budget this fiscal year and a projected $1.6 trillion deficit—on top of our $34 trillion in federal debt—the $1.4 trillion coming due this year alone for Social Security payments makes it seem as if increasing taxes and lowering benefits are the only plausible policy options to ensure the U.S. can continue funding Social Security. Add the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees’ projection that the Social Security trust funds will run out by 2034, and the need for reform is obvious. Yet no elected leader has offered a credible plan to save the system, let alone increase benefits.

 

Here are two solutions with proven track records—neither of which would privatize the system or change benefit levels for those at or near retirement.

 

First, we can shore up the funds available to pay retirement benefits by creating a low-risk diversified investment plan that takes advantage of long-run equity returns, which are superior to the return on bonds. This is how most wealthy individuals protect their assets and maximize their retirement security. The same strategy can work for every American. Canada has already invested its government retirement system assets in a diversified portfolio that is yielding impressive results.

 

Second, every American should have the same option that every federal employee has had since 1986: to participate voluntarily in the Thrift Savings Plan, a federal multiasset investment program. For decades, this plan has generated retirement wealth. Under both solutions, stock markets would benefit every retiree, not just the rich.


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