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Beyond Ideology: Are Individual Social Security Accounts Feasible?

EBRI Policy Forum Proceedings, 1999
ISBN 0-86643-092-X
Paperback, 252 pp.
PDF, 1.0 mg
Employee Benefit Research Institute, © 1999

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Executive Summary

President Clinton's proposal for "Universal Savings Accounts" in his January 1999 State of the Union address marked a turning point in the debate over Social Security reform: Besides endorsing the concept of mandatory individual accounts, he also earmarked the federal budget "surplus" as the source for funding this expansion of Social Security.

But whether individual accounts (IAs) would be funded by general revenues (an "add-on") or by the current payroll tax (a "carve-out"), some basic questions have not been fully considered in the debate over Social Security reform: How would individual accounts actually work? As a purely logistical matter, how would the existing Social Security system have to be changed in order to create and operate IAs? What would these changes require of employers, the government, individuals, and financial service providers? And how much would it all cost?

Nearly 300 leaders representing the private sector, the public sector, and the news media explored those questions in detail at the Employee Benefit Research Institute's Dec. 2, 1998, policy forum, "Beyond Ideology: Are Individual Social Security Accounts Feasible?" The papers contained in this book explore in detail the difficult administrative issues raised by individual Social Security accounts. They reflect multiple perspectives, and insights, from the Social Security Administration, employers, the mutual fund and defined contribution industries, pension actuaries, payroll service bureaus, academics, researchers, and tax and legal experts.

Beyond Ideology: Are Individual Social Security Accounts Feasible? explains why IAs may be the biggest undertaking in the history of the U.S. financial market.