A congressional report predicting the government would use Social Security surplus to fund programs shook Washington from its late-summer snooze, setting the stage for what could be a tumultuous budget battle on Capitol Hill.

One keen observer of the continuing Social Security debate is Drucker Professor of Management Sciences Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Munnell, who served in the Clinton administration prior to arriving at BC, has been a frequent commentator on America's retirement readiness, regularly interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today and Boston Globe, among others.
Although some experts feel the controversy has more to do with political symbolism - breaking open the metaphorical "lockbox" - Munnell finds the prospect of broaching Social Security a troubling one.

"It has to do with fiscal discipline," said Munnell last week. "A country in our situation needs to save now to support its aging population, which will increase dramatically in the next few decades. Segregating the Social Security trust funds while balancing the federal budget was the mechanism for saving for the future."

Munnell said she is concerned that the government, having tapped Social Security, will find it irresistible as a source of funds down the road. "I think we'll be dipping into the trust fund for more than the $9 billion that's been projected by the Congressional Budget Office," she said.

-Sean Smith


Return to September 7 menu

Return to Chronicle home page