Local News

President Clinton Joins in on NC Social Security Discussion

Posted July 26, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Having enough money to live on is a concern for most people who are nearing retirement age. Social Security will likely be a major part of most retirement funds. The program is apparently secure for the next few years, but the aging baby-boomer generation, combined with longer life spans will tax it.

Monday, the Triangle joined several other cities in a unique discussion about Social Security's future. WRAL'sTom Lawrencesat in on the meeting and President Clinton joined in for part of it by satellite.

Two of three elderly Americans depend on social security as part of their retirement. Widows, survivors and the disabled also benefit, but much more money will be needed during the next 20 or 30 years if everyone will continue to benefit.

As a result, Congress, the president and most Americans are looking for ways to keep Social Security healthy.

The Museum of History auditorium was the site of the discussion, but it was far from full. However, those who were there were vitally interested in the future of Social Security. Congressman David Price pointed out that the budget surplusisthe Social Security trust fund.

"The only reason we're running a surplus and looking at a surplus in our national budget picture is because of the surplus in the Social Security trust fund," said Price.

Many in attendance say they worry that the fund cannot support the growing number of recipients. Price attempted to build a consensus question for the president.

"As you know the Social Security trust fund now invests only in government bonds," said Price. "Should it, we're asking, like every other pension and retirement fund, invest some funds in the private market place?"

President Clinton told viewers in five cities that no decisions have been made. Several options are under consideration, he said, including private accounts and the possibility of the trust fund investing in the private marketplace.

"Maybe you should have a small percentage of payroll tax, or a small annual payment to people for individual investment accounts -- for those who believe that the Social Security Trust Fund itself should invest beginning with a modest amount, a limited amount of its funds to increase the rate of return," the president said.

This was the third town meeting on Social Security and it involved people in Albuquerque, Chicago, Bismark, North Dakota, Wilmington, Delaware, as well as the Triangle.

The president will host a White House conference on the issue this winter.