This past week I addressed the nation to talk about the challenges facing Social Security. The Social Security system that Franklin Roosevelt created was a great moral success of the 20th century. It provided a safety net that ensured dignity and peace of mind to millions of Americans in retirement.
Yet today there is a hole in the safety net for younger workers, because Congress has made promises it cannot keep. We have a duty to save and strengthen Social Security for our children and grandchildren.
In the coming week, I will travel to Mississippi to continue to discuss ways to put Social Security on the path to permanent solvency. I will continue to assure Americans that some parts of Social Security will not change. Seniors and people with disabilities will continue to get their checks, and all Americans born before 1950 will also receive their full benefits. And I will make it clear that as we fix Social Security we have a duty to direct extra help to those most in need, and make Social Security a better deal for younger workers.
We have entered a new phase in this discussion. As members of Congress begin work on Social Security legislation, they should pursue three important goals. First, I understand that millions of Americans depend on Social Security checks as a primary source of retirement income, so we must keep this promise to future retirees, as well. As a matter of fairness, future generations should receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get.
Second, I believe a reformed system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So in the future, benefits for low-income workers should grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make good on this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty.
This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security. A variety of options are available to solve the rest of the problem. And I will work with Congress on any good-faith proposal that does not raise the payroll tax rate or harm our economy.
Third, any reform of Social Security must replace the empty promises being made to younger workers with real assets, real money. I believe the best way to achieve this goal is to give younger workers the option of putting a portion of their payroll taxes into a voluntary personal retirement account. Because this money is saved and invested, younger workers would have the opportunity to receive a higher rate of return on their money than the current Social Security system can provide.
Some Americans have reservations about investing in the markets because they want a guaranteed return on their money. So one investment option should consist entirely of Treasury bonds, which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. Options like this will make voluntary personal retirement accounts a safer investment that will allow you to build a nest egg that you can pass on to your loved ones.
In the days and weeks ahead, I will work to build on the progress we have made in the Social Security discussion. Americans of all ages are beginning to look at Social Security in a new way. Instead of asking whether the system has a problem, they're asking when their leaders are going to fix it. Fixing Social Security must be a bipartisan effort, and I'm willing to listen to a good idea from either party. I'm confident that by working together, we will find a solution that will renew the promise of Social Security for the 21st century.
Thank you for listening.