The President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security came up with a Chicken Little conclusion, but the sky isn't falling.
The panel's irresponsible interim report gives a distorted view of the Social Security dilemma in an attempt to promote President Bush's individual investment accounts. On this commission, there's no room for alternative routes to put the Social Security system back in balance.
What a shame. The president's preferred solution isn't even popular within his own party.
Last weekend, Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert rejected legislation creating individual Social Security investment accounts, saying any plan that reduces Social Security benefits is unacceptable.
Yet that's the only way to create individual accounts equitably. Because of the president's massive $1.35 trillion tax cut, there's not enough surplus left to use for those investment accounts. So, part of a wage-earner's Social Security deduction would have to be used.
As critics point out, that move would worsen the Social Security situation: The trust fund would start to run out of money just six years from now.
No wonder most Americans oppose the president's plan. Establishing 150 million different investment strategies is a recipe for enormous administrative costs and huge commissions for Wall Street firms. In a bear market, people's future Social Security benefits in their accounts could shrivel.
The country needs a full-ranging debate on ways to repair the Social Security system. Perhaps letting the trustees invest in higher-yielding securities would work. Or raising the retirement age for the next generation to coincide with rising longevity.
But we'll never get such suggestions from this group.
The president's commission doesn't make a persuasive case. Its approach is unsound - and most Americans can figure that out.