Myth of Empty Promises

In his speech in Detroit, President Bush said, “Best of all, the accounts would be replacing the empty promises of government with the real assets of ownership.” The “worthless IOUs” myth is one debunked by The Century Foundation’s Social Security Network:

“When investors become worried about the economy and the stock market, they “flee to safety” by selling their other securities in exchange for U.S. Treasury bonds and bills. Backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, U.S. Treasury securities are considered to be the safest, most reliable investment worldwide. Because the federal government is legally obligated to pay back interest and principal on those securities, it would take an almost unimaginable calamity for a default to occur. Social Security’s trust funds, which now amount to $1.5 trillion and are expected to grow to $5.3 trillion by 2018, hold nothing but U.S. Treasury securities.

Alan Greenspan, now the Federal Reserve chairman, led a bipartisan commission in 1983 that recommended changes to Social Security explicitly to produce the large trust funds that the system will draw on to pay for the baby boom generation’s retirement from roughly 2008 to 2030. Those reforms, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, were widely hailed at the time by both parties as a model of effective government. If anything, those reforms have turned out to be even more successful than originally imagined, as the improved forecasts in recent years for the program demonstrate. The central reason for that success was the Greenspan Commission’s idea of building up trust funds invested in safe U.S. Treasury securities.”