This compromise proves that bipartisanship can resolve serious national problems. It is a clear and dramatic demonstration of how effectively our system works when men and women join together for the common good.
The quote comes from a note that President Reagan wrote to former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, thanking Dole for spearheading a bipartisan reform of Social Security in 1983.
Now, 27 years later, Social Security needs additional reforms to extend its solvency. But are there enough members of Congress willing to set aside politics and rigid ideologies to find workable solutions, as Dole did? Are there any Bob Doles in the Kansas delegation and among this year's congressional candidates?
It doesn't look promising.
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A report this month from the Social Security trustees estimated that Social Security's combined retirement and disability trust funds would be able to pay full benefits until 2037. At that point, Social Security would be able to cover about three-fourths of its benefits.
Though that's still some years away, the sooner reforms begin, the less drastic they have to be. Also, because of the down economy, Social Security is paying out more in benefits than it receives in taxes. Those deficits are expected to become permanent by 2015, which will add additional strain to the federal budget.
Social Security faced similar challenges in the 1980s. But thanks to Dole's leadership, Congress was able to significantly extend the solvency of the program by increasing payroll taxes and slowly increasing the retirement age.
Some advocate for partially privatizing Social Security as a way to reduce the program's long-term liabilities. But the volatility of the stock market has made that idea untenable for most of the public. Even before the stock market collapse wrecked 401(k) accounts, President George W. Bush could get few lawmakers to publicly back privatization.
As a result, the most likely reform would be similar to what Dole negotiated: cutting benefits, such as by gradually raising the retirement age (it already is scheduled to increase to 67 years old), and increasing taxes, such as by raising the earnings cap (earnings above $106,800 currently aren't subject to Social Security taxes).
But even these somewhat modest changes are facing stiff partisan resistance in Congress.
As The Eagle reported last week, many Democrats adamantly oppose any cut in benefits and some won't accept an increase in the retirement age. And most Republicans say an increase in Social Security taxes, even on the wealthy, is out of the question.
That's a recipe for inaction.
Social Security, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last week, has lifted millions of Americans out of poverty and enabled seniors to live out their lives with greater dignity. But if it is going to last another 75 years and beyond, it is going to take more Bob Doles.