Social Security Fixes Found at LeMieux Center Workshop

Economist Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, speaks during the recent LeMieux Center event.

Are you concerned about whether Social Security will be solvent when you retire? What about when your children or grandchildren retire?

You can stop worrying because last night in a gathering of students, faculty and community leaders in Palm Beach Atlantic University’s Weyenberg Center, the problem was solved. At least in theory, which was the aim of the interactive event sponsored by the LeMieux Center for Public Policy at PBA, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County and the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The U.S. debt, which is fast approaching $20 trillion, poses “an existential threat to the future of this country,” former U.S. Senator George LeMieux told the gathering, noting that the U.S. pays some $300 billion a year interest on the debt alone.

“When I went to Washington, I was shocked at how they do budgeting,” he said. “They don’t do it based on revenues.”

Most states required a balanced budget, even if only on paper; the federal government does not. “I was amazed at how different it is from how it is done in state government,” said LeMieux, who was chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist.

One of the major budgetary issues Washington will have to deal with in the next few years is a fast-approaching shortfall in Social Security, and that was the topic of Wednesday night’s session led by representatives of Fix the Debt, the action arm of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan, non-profit organization formed to educate the public about issues that have significant fiscal policy impact.

“Doing nothing is guaranteed to doom the program,” Marc Goldwein, an economist and the CRFB’s senior vice president and senior policy director told the gathering. At the current pace, Social Security recipients will face a 23 percent across-the-board benefit cut sometime between 2029 and 2033, said Goldwein, who was a senior budget analyst on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction -- also known as the Simpson-Bowles Super Committee.

But what to do with the Far Left and Far Right so diametrically opposed as to how to fix Social Security? – that was the question posed at the PBA-LeMieux Center event.

With attendees split between six large tables, Goldwein led them through a worksheet that offered 24 options related to benefit decreases or revenue increases that would eliminate the shortfall and put the program on a solvent path into the foreseeable future. No one option would do it. But beyond the mathematics, part of the exercise was that everyone at each table had to come into agreement on the solution through compromise and negotiation.

When the exercise was finished, each table had found a way to save Social Security – some even increased benefits.

“Here in southeast Florida, we’re doing great and I believe our best days are ahead of us,” said LeMieux. “We’re positioned to become the capitol of the Americas … but not if Washington goes broke.

“People think Social Security can’t be fixed,” he said. “But this shows it can be.”