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Making Sense of Social Security Reform

The Social Security Act of 1935 must be counted among the most monumental pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. Today, sixty-five years after its enactment, public support for Social Security remains extremely strong. At the same time, there have been reports that Social Security is in grave danger of financial collapse, and numerous groups across the political spectrum have agitated for its reform. The president has put forward proposals to rescue Social Security, conservatives argue for its privatization, and liberals advocate increases in its funding from surplus tax revenues.

But what is the average person to make of all this? How many Americans know where the money for Social Security benefits really comes from, or who wins and loses from the system’s overall operations? Few people understand the current Social Security system in even its broadest outlines. And yet Social Security reform is ranked among the most important social issues of our time.

With Making Sense of Social Security Reform, Daniel Shaviro makes an important contribution to the public understanding of the issues involved in reforming Social Security. His book clearly and straightforwardly describes the current system and the pressures that have been brought to bear upon it, before dissecting and evaluating the various reform proposals. Accessible to anyone who has an interest in the issue, Shaviro’s new work is unique in offering a balanced, nonpartisan account.

185 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2000

Economics and Business: Health Economics

Political Science: Public Policy

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Basic Building Blocks: Social Security Taxes and Benefits
3. Social Security as a System of Forced Saving and Limited Portfolio Choice Plus or Minus a Transfer
4. Social Security and Social Insurance
5. The Social Security Trust Fund: The Economics of Funding and the Politics of Accounting
6. Traditionalist Social Security Reform Proposals
7. Proposals to "Privatize" Social Security
8. A Modest Proposal: Progressive Privatization

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