Here's Your Plan, Mr. President

Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) and Sen. John Sununu (R.-N.H.) will introduce their long-awaited Social Security reform legislation today, offering a plan that achieves solvency through the creation of personal retirement accounts. The two lawmakers offered a similar proposal in the 108th Congress, which attracted the support of many conservatives but not the White House. The new legislation comes as House conservatives are growing frustrated by the absence of a concrete proposal from President Bush. “Social Security is facing a $12-trillion shortfall that will be passed along to our children and grandchildren if action is not taken now to solve this problem,” said Sununu and Ryan in a statement. “That is why we are re-introducing legislation that will establish long-term solvency for America’s retirement security program and strengthen Social Security by empowering workers with more control over their financial future.” Sununu appeared Wednesday morning on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” with Steve Scully. Both lawmakers are meeting with the Capitol Hill press corps mid-morning today to share the details of the bill. Unlike other legislation introduced or discussed in the halls of the Capitol, Ryan-Sununu, as it has come to be known, offers personal accounts without cutting benefits or raising taxes. “We begin with the premise that personal accounts are the way to achieve permanent solvency,” Sununu told the editors of HUMAN EVENTS earlier this month. “And second, personal accounts make the system better because they allow individuals to control their own long-term retirement destiny.” The plan allows workers to put 10% of the first $10,000 they earn into a personal account and then 5% after that up to the Social Security earnings limit, Sununu explained. Sununu said individuals are guaranteed the minimum Social Security benefit if their personal accounts do not produce gains outpacing the rate of return of traditional Social Security. But because that return is so poor, he added, workers would almost certainly rely on their personal accounts to fund their retirement–leaving the government on the sidelines and able to achieve solvency. The transition costs of Ryan-Sununu–upwards of $2 trillion–aren’t to be taken lightly, the lawmakers told HUMAN EVENTS. But a reduction in the growth of government spending from 4.6% to 3.6% each year, would heavily defray those costs. “To put that in perspective, during President Clinton’s eight years, government grew at 2.6%,” Ryan told HUMAN EVENTS in an interview. “We’re simply saying, grow government a percentage point faster than Clinton did and a percentage point slower than the current projections and then transfer the savings over to this plan. That’s where we get most of the money to pay for this.” Ryan said the plan would forbid Congress from raiding the Social Security trust fund and it also assumes there will be a resurgence in corporate tax revenues, which would be dedicated to pay for the transition costs. Any debt still existing would have to be financed by borrowing money. Now that Ryan-Sununu has been formally introduced, conservatives on Capitol Hill hope President Bush will get on board.