Advancing a Free Society

In Defense of the Simpson-Bowles Social Security Plan: part 1

Monday, February 28, 2011

In previous articles I have sought primarily to explain the Simpson-Bowles fiscal commission Social Security proposal rather than to promote it. I took a favorable position in one public debate about the plan and was comfortable asserting that it is a well-considered, reasonable compromise approach.

My own subjective policy views are to the right of Simpson-Bowles. As my policy ideal, I would prefer a plan that does more to contain cost growth and less to increase revenues. I am nevertheless concerned enough by other recent critical descriptions of the plan – based in part on a recent paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) – that I feel compelled to write again about Simpson-Bowles to offer a competing – more positive – perspective.

A few additional disclaimers first: I have enormous respect for the CBPP authors. I recently co-authored a paper with Bob Greenstein on the Social Security financing challenge, and immensely enjoyed my opportunity to work with him and with CBPP’s other well-informed experts. Indeed, it is precisely because of the credibility that their criticisms will enjoy that I feel obliged to offer this alternative perspective.

The recent CBPP paper offers several criticisms of the Simpson-Bowles Social Security proposal. I group my responses to these criticisms into three general categories:

  1. Places where I agree both with CBPP’s analytical description and their policy conclusion.
  2. Places where I agree with CBPP’s analytical description but have a different policy view.
  3. Places where I disagree with both the analytical description and the policy conclusion.

Let’s start with the points of agreement first. Because I am ordering by level of agreement, these points are not in the order that they appear in the CBPP paper.

Continue reading Charles Blahous at e21

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