Saving Social Security

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," December 16, 2004, that was edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The crisis is now. You may not feel it. Your constituents may not be overwhelming you with letters demanding a fix now, but the crisis is now.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: President Bush in crisis mode to fix Social Security, but it may be an uphill fight. The latest news polls seem to show that when it comes to investing a portion of their money for Social Security, Americans' support is waning but still strong at about 60 percent.

The president's top budget man is here now, Josh Bolten, who joins me from the White House.

Director Bolten, good to have you.


CAVUTO: The reason why, when people are asked on this subject, they're a little reluctant, sir, is they think that it's going to create a bigger mess up front.

How do you tell them that's not the case?

BOLTEN: What those folks need to understand, and one reason the president was eager to have this conference at the time that he did is that Social Security is in trouble today.

It's, you won't see it in the next few years, and if you're a senior or near retirement, you'll get exactly the benefit you were promised at the time you were promised it.

The problem is, for our younger workers, people entering the work force today, especially, the system will be unable to pay the benefit it promises. So it needs comprehensive reform.

And part of that comprehensive reform should be the creation of personal accounts, which lets people keep some of their own money, some of their own Social Security money, invest it, get a better return on it than you would in the normal Social Security system.

CAVUTO: But Director, how do you keep people to avoid getting caught up in another Enron or Tyco?

BOLTEN: I think that can be well handled by making the system, making the creation of personal accounts the same way that, as a federal employee, I'm able to invest in the thrift savings plan. They have about eight or a dozen choices that you can choose from...

CAVUTO: So you invest in an index or something?

BOLTEN: In an index, exactly. Nobody is going to be allowed to go out and risk it all on one stock or anything like that.

CAVUTO: OK. But director, here's what isn't clear. The president indicated that he can do a lot of this without raising people's taxes, FICA taxes. Democrats I've had on this show say he's nuts. He can't do it. What do you say?

BOLTEN: I say you absolutely can do it. And there's several plans out there that solve the long-term problem without raising taxes.

Now, there's a lot of different ways to do it, but I go back to the personal accounts. They are a key element of how we can fix this system permanently.

Right now, there is a $10 trillion unfunded liability in the Social Security system. If we just sit and do nothing, that problem gets worse and gets much harder to fix.

We've got a moment in history now where we can step in, fix the system, create the personal accounts, make sure the system is there for our younger workers today, and do it all in a way that I think ought to be able to attract some bipartisan support.

CAVUTO: All right, Josh Bolten, White House OMB director. Good seeing you again. Thank you.

BOLTEN: Thank you, sir.

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