Al Gore on Social Security

2000 Democratic Nominee for President; Former Vice President


2000: Pilfered Paul Ryan's idea for "lock box"

In 2000, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore pilfered Ryan's proposal to preserve Social Security trust funds in a "lock box." In 2006, Ryan turned down the offer to be Pres. Bush's new budget director.

Despite all the accolades, Paul Ryan had functioned as little more than policy arm candy for his party. His Social Security lock box proposal had gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.

Source: Do Not Ask What Good We Do, by Robert Draper, p.137 , Apr 24, 2012

Bush’s “federal program” flub indicates ingrained hostility

[Bush] sent a spokesperson out there to say ‘He misspoke, Social Security is a federal program.’ But it wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was an expression of ingrained hostility to our ability as Americans to work through the instruments of self-governmen that our founders wrote into our Constitution. There is a preference on the other side for a dog-eat-dog, ‘every-person-to-himself’ mentality that works fine for the very wealthy, but does not work very well for those who are struggling to get by.
Source: Speech in West Virginia , Nov 4, 2000

Bush didn’t know Soc.Sec.is federal; don’t trust him with it

Gore spent the day hammering at comments Bush made on Social Security. Bush said his [partial privatization] plan scares some people “because they want the federal government controlling the Social Security, like it’s some kind of federal program.” Gore pressed his frequent argument that Bush’s plan effectively promises about $1 trillion from the Social Security Trust Fund to two groups of people: younger workers paying into the system, and older workers receiving current benefits.

“That program, which is indeed a federal program, reshaped the later years of our human life cycle-and it provided dignity,“ Gore said. ”If four days from a national election, he doesn’t know Social Security is a federal program, that may explain why he has been so willing to loot the money from the trust fund.“

In an earlier appearance in Iowa, Gore was blunter: ”Do you want to entrust the Oval Office to somebody who doesn’t even know Social Security is a federal program?“

Source: CNN.com coverage , Nov 3, 2000

Won’t break Social Security promises to seniors

Join with me, and we won’t make promises just to break them. We’ll keep our promises go the seniors who gave us everything that we have today. Instead of a system where everyone is in it together, the Bush plan would turn Social Security into a grab bag where everyone is out for himself. You might call it social insecurity. And that’s wrong for our values. It’s also wrong for our economy. Under our plan, Social Security will remain financially sound for more than 50 years.
Source: Speech in Kissimmee, Florida , Nov 1, 2000

Will Bush cut benefits or raise the retirement age?

“This election is not only about the economy, but it’s about values. It starts with the economy but then it goes to our deeper values. The days are ticking down and Governor Bush has a choice to make. It’s time for him to tell us whether he will break his promise and cut benefits or raise the retirement age. Which will it be and when will he tell us?”
Source: AP story in NY Times on 2000 election , Oct 21, 2000

Claim that Social Security will go bankrupt is misleading

Gore said that Bush intended to take $1 trillion out of the Social Security trust fund and had promised the same money twice-once for the private accounts and once to pay benefits to retirees.

Gore was right to say that Bush’s plan will require $1 trillion to get started. Gore was also right that the money would come out of payroll taxes. But Gore was on shakier ground in suggesting that putting $1 trillion into private accounts would leave Social Security $1 trillion short of what it needs to pay in benefits, because of the Trust Fund surplus. Gore has a point in this sense: debt reduction can be seen as a way of saving for when Social Security will need general tax revenues to help pay for benefits.

Gore said that under Bush’s proposal, Social Security would be bankrupt in 20 years. But Social Security cannot be bankrupt except in the most technical sense. Even if nothing is done to help the system, Social Security will be able to pay more than 70% of promised benefits indefinitely.

Source: NY Times analysis of St. Louis debate, on 2000 election , Oct 19, 2000

Bush’s “Social Security Minus” diverts $1 from every $6

Q: What is your Social Security plan?

GORE: I will keep it in a lockbox. The interest savings, I would put right back into it. That extends the life for 55 years. I am opposed to a plan that diverts 1 out of every 6 dollars away from the Trust Fund. It would go bankrupt within this generation.

BUSH: We want to allow younger workers to take some of their own money & put it in safe investments so that $1 trillion grows to $3 trillion. The money stays within the system.

GORE: I give a new incentive for younger workers to invest their own money. My plan is “Social Security Plus.” The governor’s plan is “Social Security Minus.” Your future benefits would be cut by the amount that’s diverted into the stock market. And if you make bad investments, that’s too bad.

BUSH: Your plan is “Social Security Plus Huge Debt.” If we don’t trust younger workers to manage some of their own money, it’s going to be impossible to bridge the gap without causing huge payroll taxes or major benefit reductions.

Source: (X-ref Bush) Presidential debate, Boston MA , Oct 3, 2000

Paying off national debt keeps trust fund solvent until 2054

Source: The Economist, “Issues 2000” , Sep 30, 2000

Dedicate the budget surplus first to saving Social Security

I will not go along with any proposal to strip one out of every six dollars from the Social Security trust fund and privatize the Social Security that you’re counting on. That’s Social Security minus. Our plan is Social Security plus. We will balance the budget every year, and dedicate the budget surplus first to saving Social Security. Putting both Social Security and Medicare in an iron-clad lock box where the politicians can’t touch them -- to me, that kind of common sense is a family value.
Source: Speech to the 2000 Democratic National Convention , Aug 18, 2000

Open questions: future surplus & future discipline

  • Allow investing an unspecified amount of payroll taxes in the stock market.
  • Does not preclude decreasing guaranteed benefits for future retirees.
    Use the federal budget surplus to pay down the debt and use the interest saved to keep Social Security solvent.
  • Subsidized retirement savings plan open to families earning up to $100,000 a year.
Unanswered questions
  • Will the government bail out people who make poor investment decisions?
  • What about the costs of making the transition to & then maintaining the accounts?
  • If some payroll taxes are diverted to private accounts, how will the government make up the difference for current retirees?
  • What if future administrations don’t display the kind of fiscal discipline Gore’s plan requires?
  • What if the projections of budget surplus money to pay down the debt doesn’t come true?
Source: Associated Press in Boston Globe, p. A10 , Jul 5, 2000

Social Security Plus: voluntary tax-free private investment

Gore pledged to create a new, independent retirement account that would supplement Social Security. “Social Security Plus” [would] add to Social Security’s guaranteed benefit. These tax-free, voluntary accounts would encourage individuals to save and invest more for their retirement -- without making Social Security subject to the fluctuations of the stock market. Gore will detail his Social Security Plus plan in a future speech.

“This is Social Security plus, not Social Security minus,“ Gore said. ”It doesn’t come at the expense of Social Security -- it comes in addition to Social Security. It is the best of both worlds -- rather than, as some have proposed, the worst of both worlds. You get the freedom to save more and invest more, but it will not come out of your Social Security. Your Social Security will be there for you to rely upon, no matter how those investments perform.“

Source: Press Release, “Social Security Plus” , Jun 13, 2000

Protect Social Security from privacy & ID theft

Gore today proposed making it a federal crime to buy or sell Social Security numbers, the latest in a series of initiatives to address anxiety about invasions of privacy and identity theft. Gore said he would make stronger protections of confidential financial and medical records a “national priority.”

Gore said complaints about the theft of Social Security numbers through new technology are rising sharply across the country. “The information age should not mean your personal information is misused and abused.“

Both Gore and Bush have begun advocating stronger privacy rights. Gore called on Congress today to adopt an ”electronic Bill of Rights“ that would better protect citizens from the unauthorized use of their financial and medical records. Gore said lawmakers should begin with tough new penalties against buying or selling Social Security numbers because ”that’s the key fact that can be used to get all the other key facts.“

Source: Rene Sanchez, Washington Post, p. A6 on 2000 election , Jun 9, 2000

Use stock market for private investment, not Social Security

Gore said today that the stock market was an attractive place for Americans to invest over the long run but that it was the wrong place to seek a solution to Social Security’s problems. “The magnitude of the government’s stock ownership would be such that it would at least raise the question of whether or not we had begun to change the fundamental nature of our economy,” Mr. Gore said. “Upon reflection, it seemed to me that those problems were quite serious.” Moreover, Gore said, he became convinced that Wall Street’s ups and downs were large enough to create a risk that the government might be making a bad investment. During long stretches -- including from the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, Wall Street was by no means the one-way bet it has often been viewed as in recent years. He said any investment in the markets should “come on top of Social Security,” rather than as a replacement for it.
Source: Richard W. Stevenson and James Dao, Associated Press , May 24, 2000

Debt reduction and interest saved will save social security

Gore said. “We have the chance to reform Social Security the right way, in a way that preserves its basic guarantees, pays down our debt, keeps our economy strong, and enables us to meet our other great challenges.” Gore has detailed a plan to keep Social Security solvent through at least 2050. As President, Gore would use today’s budget surpluses to pay down the national debt and use the interest saved from debt reduction to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund. Gore would also raise benefits for widows and eliminate the motherhood penalty that reduces benefits for women who take time off from work to raise their children. Gore supports a guaranteed benefit for Social Security and opposes raising the retirement age. “Social Security isn’t supposed to be a system of winners and losers. It’s supposed to be a bedrock guarantee of a minimum decent retirement,” Gore said.
Source: Press release for speech at Fordham University, NY , May 16, 2000

Keep the ‘security’ in Social Security

“Social Security is a solemn compact. Its basic guarantee of retirement security is based on its guaranteed minimum benefit,” Gore said. “To turn Social Security into a system of winners and losers would jeopardize Social Security for all Americans,” he said. “Gov. Bush’s plan takes the ‘security’ out of Social Security.”
Source: CNN.com reporting from Pennsylvania , May 15, 2000

Ensure health care & retirement security for aging veterans

Gore highlighted his record of fighting for veterans and his plans for saving Social Security and strengthening Medicare to ensure health care and retirement security for aging veterans. “We have a responsibility to each and every one of our veterans,” Gore said. “America must do more for those who have risked everything to keep us free. I will fight for an unshakeable national commitment to our veterans.”

Noting the number of Social Security enrollees is expected to double over the next 30 years, Gore highlighted his plan for saving Social Security. Gore’s balanced budget plan uses the entire Social Security surplus, $2.2 trillion over ten years, to improve Social Security and pay down the debt -- and dedicates the billions of dollars in interest saved from debt reduction to shore up the Social Security Trust Fund until at least 2050. Gore would strengthen prescription drug coverage for military retirees, and provide a comprehensive prescription drug plan for all seniors.

Source: Press Release in Jacksonville, Ark. , May 10, 2000

Privatization is “stock market roulette”

Gore charged that Bush’s proposal for deep tax cuts and allowing workers to invest in private savings accounts would undermine what he called “the greatest act of social policy” in the country’s history. Gore charged that Bush’s willingness to partially privatize the Social Security system would subject working families to a form of “stock market roulette” that could leave families worse off, not better. “I believe it’s wrong to ask our elderly to roll the dice with their retirement savings,” he said.
Source: Dan Balz, Washington Post, p. A8 on 2000 election , Apr 5, 2000

Eliminate the motherhood penalty

The current Social Security formula is based on average earnings over 35 years of work. Because women take several years raising children, the typical woman only works 27 years. However, those years raising children do not count toward Social Security earnings, effectively creating a “motherhood penalty.” Gore would allow parents to take credit for up to five years of earnings if they take that time to raise children. This will increase Social Security benefits for these women by about $600 a year.
Source: Press Release from www.algore2000.com , Apr 3, 2000

Strengthen benefits for widows

Today, there are millions of elderly women who could be plunged into poverty when their husbands die. Under current law, widows can have their combined benefits cut in half. Because living costs, such as rent and utilities, often do not decrease with the death of a spouse, this cut in benefits significantly impacts widows. Gore would fight to raise the widow’s benefit to 3/4 of the couple’s combined benefit, helping more than 3 million elderly women receive a benefit that reflects their cost of living.
Source: Press Release from www.algore2000.com , Apr 3, 2000

Streamline disability and advocacy processes

As President, I promise to work towards streamlining the disability process for the Social Security Administration thus shortening the amount of time from filing to determination. I promise to increase funding toward independent living center grants to insure access to advocacy for all disabled persons. I promise to work toward the creation of a national disability policy agenda designed to benefit and better all Americans.
Source: (Cross-ref from Civil Rights) http://www.disabledforgore.org , Jun 14, 1999

Opposed cutting Medicare; commit more funds instead

When some in Congress proposed deep cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, Al Gore stood strong in opposition. [Gore supported] reforms that have extended the life of the trust fund by 16 years -[and] using one out of every six dollars of the budget surplus over the next 15 years to strengthen Medicare even more. Gore is also working to meet the growing needs of seniors through Medicare -- such as access to life-saving cancer clinical trials and help in buying prescription drugs.
Source: (Cross-ref from Health Care) www.AlGore2000.com/issues/healt , Jun 14, 1999

Protect retirement plans while times are good

Use good economic times to tackle tough, long-term economic problems-and that means meeting our promise to an aging society by saving Social Security first and protecting Medicare while we have the means and the will to do it. Al Gore has urged Congress to refrain from risky tax schemes, and instead pass a responsible Social Security and Medicare reform plan -- to ensure the dignity of seniors in retirement, while also raising the national savings rate.
Source: www.AlGore2000.com/issues/econ.html 5/14/99 , May 14, 1999

Delaying Social Security COLA increase should be an option

[Adviser Leon] Panetta said that in the 1990 budget deal they had looked at delaying the cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) for Social Security recipients for 3 months. Every year, all Social Security beneficiaries got an increase in their checks to account for inflation; delaying these increases was often discussed but rarely done. A 3-month delay, Panetta said, would save $20 billion over 3 years.

Gore jumped in, saying Social Security should be an option. Like taxes, Social Security was usually considered untouchable, but Gore wanted to be tough-minded.

Hillary Clinton knew it was a basic issue for millions who lived on Social Security. There were lots of ways of taking on Social Security costs, and delaying the increases would be about the least progressive of them. The poor, who often rely on Social Security as their only source of retirement income, would be hit the hardest.

Source: The Agenda, by Bob Woodward, p. 87-88 , Jun 6, 1994

Create Retirement Savings Accounts.

Gore adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

Balance America’s Commitments to the Young and the Old
An ever-growing share of the federal budget today consists of automatic transfers from working Americans to retirees. Moreover, the costs of the big entitlements for the elderly -- Social Security and Medicare -- are growing at rates that will eventually bankrupt them and that could leave little to pay for everything else government does. We can’t just spend our way out of the problem; we must find a way to contain future costs. The federal government already spends seven times as much on the elderly as it does on children. To allow that ratio to grow even more imbalanced would be grossly unfair to today’s workers and future generations. In addition, Social Security and Medicare need to be modernized to reflect conditions not envisioned when they were created in the 1930s and the 1960s. Social Security, for example, needs a stronger basic benefit to bolster its critical role in reducing poverty in old age. Medicare needs to offer retirees more choices and a modern benefit package that includes prescription drugs. Such changes, however, will only add to the cost of the programs unless they are accompanied by structural reforms that restrain their growth and limit their claim on the working families whose taxes support the programs.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC7 on Aug 1, 2000

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Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
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Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

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Page last updated: Feb 21, 2022