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December 8, 1998

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There is, in this process, simply no room for rancor. The stakes are too high, the issues are too important. It is not about politics. It is about doing right by young and old without regard to party. The whole point of this conference is to open honest debate and to build consensus -- not to shoot down ideas or insist that one side or the other has to go first. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to move us forward to the finish line. But let's agree, the only way we are going to get there is by marching together. Our ears -- and our minds -- must remain open to any good idea from any party, or any person of goodwill.

President Bill Clinton
December 8, 1998

Today, President Clinton will kick off the two day White House Conference on Social Security, bringing together member of Congress, state and local elected officials, experts, and members of the public to discuss ideas about how best to reform Social Security to ensure its solvency well into the 21st Century.

Social Security Is A Sacred Trust Between The Generations. Since its inception in 1935, the Social Security system has provided security for the retired and disabled, as well as their families. The Social Security system currently provides benefits to about 44 million Americans, and keeps roughly 15 million of them out of poverty. Social Security is the sole source of income for 18 percent of all elderly Americans, and the primary source for two-thirds of all senior citizens.

The Need To Strengthen Social Security. America's economy is the strongest it has been in a generation. The strength of our economy and the balancing of our federal budget affords America a rare opportunity to prepare our nation for the 21st Century. One of the biggest challenges we will meet is the retirement of the baby boom generation and the strain it will place on the Social Security system. By 2030, there will be twice as many elderly people than today, with only two people working for every person drawing Social Security. President Clinton helped ensure that our hard-earned budget surplus was put aside to save Social Security first.

The President Is Working To Protect Social Security. The President believes that any changes or reforms to the current system should be measured against the following five objectives:

  • Strengthening and Protecting Social Security For The 21st Century. Any Social Security reform proposal must be comprehensive and address the solvency problem the system will face in the 21st Century.
  • Maintaining Universality and Fairness. For half a century, Social Security has been a progressive guarantee for all citizens. Reform should maintain this promise.
  • Providing A Benefit People Can Count On. Regardless of economic ups and downs, Social Security must provide a solid and dependable foundation of retirement security.
  • Preserving Financial Security For Low-Income And Disabled Beneficiaries. Reform must ensure that those who rely most on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income are not forgotten.
  • Sustaining Fiscal Discipline. Projected budget surpluses should be reserved until we have strengthened Social Security for the 21st Century.

A Nationwide Dialogue On Social Security Reform. The White House Conference on Social Security culminates a year long dialogue the President called for on the subject of Social Security reform. By bringing together a wide-ranging group of experts and political leaders, we can begin to move forward with the difficult decisions needed to ensure that our Social Security system remains strong and stable for generations to come.

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