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Fiscal Policy and Social Security Policy During the 1990s

  • Douglas W. Elmendorf
  • Jeffrey B. Liebman
  • David W. Wilcox

This paper reviews the course of fiscal policy and Social Security policy during the 1990s. The 1990s witnessed two fundamental changes in U.S. fiscal policy: a dramatic improvement in the current and projected budget balance, and a shift to a new political consensus in favor of balancing the budget excluding Social Security rather than the unified budget. The dramatic improvement in the budget outlook stemmed both from favorable developments in the economic environment and from deliberate policy actions that reduced budget deficits and later did not spend down the surpluses. In contrast, the 1990s did not witness significant changes in Social Security policy, although alternative visions of Social Security reform received tremendous analytic and popular attention. The 1994-1996 Advisory Council on Social Security presented three reform plans that placed important emphasis on additional prefunding. Each involved some form of investment in equities either centrally, through the trust fund, or in a decentralized manner, through individual accounts. Late in the decade, with the emergence of on-budget surpluses, the possibility of general revenue contributions to the Social Security system came under serious consideration. In the end, President Clinton decided to pursue Social Security reform based on general revenue contributions to the trust fund and centralized investment in equities rather than creating individual accounts, but his proposal was not adopted.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8488.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
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Publication status: published as Frankel, Jeffrey and Peter Orszag (eds.) American economic policy in the 1990s. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8488
Note: AG EFG PE
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  1. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 11-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
  3. Alan J. Auerbach & William G. Gale, 2000. "Perspectives on the Budget Surplus," NBER Working Papers 7837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Douglas W. Elmendorf & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "Social Security Reform and National Saving in an Era of Budget Surpluses," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(2), pages 1-72.
  5. David Cutler & Jonathan Gruber, 2001. "Health Policy in the Clinton Era: Once Bitten, Twice Shy," NBER Working Papers 8455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Peter A. Diamond, 1996. "Proposals to Restructure Social Security," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(3), pages 67-88, Summer.
  8. Olivier J. Blanchard, 1991. "Current and Anticipated Deficits, Interest Rates and Economic Activity," NBER Chapters, in: International Volatility and Economic Growth: The First Ten Years of The International Seminar on Macroeconomics, pages 361-390 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 263-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. repec:fth:harver:1490 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Douglas W. Elmendorf & Louise M. Sheiner, 2000. "Should America Save for Its Old Age? Fiscal Policy, Population Aging, and National Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 57-74, Summer.
  12. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 115-164 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. William H. Branson, 1985. "Causes of appreciation and volatility of the dollar," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 33-63.
  14. Jonathan Gruber & Peter Orszag, 2000. "Does the Social Security Earnings Test Affect Labor Supply and Benefits Receipt?," NBER Working Papers 7923, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1994. "Generational Accounting: A Meaningful Way to Evaluate Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 73-94, Winter.
  16. Peter A. Diamond, 2000. "Administrative Costs and Equilibrium Charges with Individual Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 137-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Lee, Ronald & Tuljapurkar, Shripad, 1998. "Uncertain Demographic Futures and Social Security Finances," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 237-41, May.
  18. Kent Smetters, 2001. "The Effect of Pay-When-Needed Benefit Guarantees on the Impact of Social Security Privatization," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 91-112 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Peter A. Diamond, 1997. "Macroeconomics Aspects of Social Security Reform," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 1-88.
  20. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
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