David Walker Explains Social Security's Future

The former comptroller general says simple changes could save the system.


There's an old saying my mom taught me: Once you touch the money, you will spend the money. History has shown [that] if we have automatic enrollment or deductions for charitable contributions, you end up generating more money. People are more likely to be able to sustain that because they don't touch the money. Nowadays, it's a matter of how quickly you spend it and if you spend it more than once through credit cards.

You've said we could resolve Social Security within a year. How?

There's broad-based agreement as to the major elements of what's needed for Social Security reform: to strengthen the benefit for people near the poverty level; to provide less replacement income for middle- and upper-income workers; to gradually increase the retirement eligibility ages in installments over time to encourage people to work longer and to index those ages to increases in life expectancy; to increase the taxable wage base cap. The Social Security tax is the most regressive tax that we have. Other changes include to possibly consider a very modest modification to the post-retirement cost-of-living increase and to consider an add-on supplemental savings account. If you did all of those things, you could provide for a solvent, sustainable, more savings-oriented Social Security system indefinitely.