Social security politics

The last thing the American public needs is more demagoguery about the financially strapped social security system. Just prior to last week's election key Democrats argued that once the election was over the Reagan administration was going to gut the social security system. ''The President,'' said House Speaker Tip O'Neill, ''plans a sneak attack on social security.'' Late in the week Senator Robert Dole got in the act by arguing that the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Social Security reform not issue its report until Speaker O'Neill first muster up his own solutions. Meanwhile, reports persist that the commission may take the easy way out by producing both majority and minority reports - and leave it up to the White House and Congress to battle out the issue.

Surely Americans deserve better than this. The undisputed fact is that the social security system does need reform - more than underscored by the need for

billion in interfund borrowing to meet November benefit payments. An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concludes that the system as now structured is ''fundamentally flawed,'' because lawmakers have promised more in benefits than can be financed through the payroll tax.

The fundamental issue is not one of scrapping social security but of wisely reforming it. To that end, lawmakers will have to consider difficult alternatives. But, instead of engaging in bickering and scaremongering, they should be encouraging the bipartisan commission to produce a consensus report that will serve as a starting point for an intelligent and constructive solution to the problem.

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