Remarks Announcing the Establishment of the National Commission on Social Security Reform

December 16, 1981

In recent years inflation has created great uncertainty about our social security system. Time and again we've been reassured the system would be financially sound for decades to come, only to find that recalculations of receipts and benefits forecast a new crisis. Current and future retirees now question the system's ability to provide them the benefits they've been led to expect. Americans look to us for leadership and for answers.

As a candidate in 1980 I pledged that I would do my utmost to restore the integrity of social security and do so without penalty to those dependent on that program. I have honored that pledge and will continue to do so. We cannot and we will not betray people entitled to social security benefits.

In September I announced that I would appoint a bipartisan task force to work with the President and the Congress to reach two specific goals: propose realistic, long-term reforms to put social security back on a sound financial footing and forge a working bipartisan consensus so that the necessary reforms will be passed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Baker, Speaker O'Neill, and I agreed we would each select five members for a new national commission on social security. Today I am pleased and honored to announce the formation of the commission and that Alan Greenspan has agreed at my request to serve as Chairman of that commission.

I'm asking the commission to present its report to the American people at the end of next year. I can think of no more important domestic problem requiring resolution than the future of our social security system.

Let me make one thing plain: With bipartisan cooperation and political courage, social security can and will be saved. For too long, too many people dependent on social security have been cruelly frightened by individuals seeking political gain through demagoguery and outright falsehood, and this must stop. The future of social security is much too important to be used as a political football.

Saving social security will require the best efforts of both parties and of both the executive and legislative branches of government. I'm confident this can be done and that in its deliberations this commission will put aside partisan considerations and seek a solution the American people will find fiscally sound and fully equitable.

That's the end of the statement.

Note: The President spoke at 12:03 p.m. to reporters assembled in the Briefing Room at the White House.