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The background and pro and con arguments were written by ProCon.org staff based upon input from the following footnotes (directly referenced) and sources (used for general research and not directly referenced):
Footnotes:
  1. Social Security Administration, "Frequently Asked Questions: Ratio of Covered Workers to Beneficiaries," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  2. "Projected Future Growth of the Older Population: By Age: 1900-2050," Administration on Aging website, July 16, 2009

  3. Board of Trustees, Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, "The 2015 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds," ssa.gov, July 22, 2015

  4. AARP/John Rother, email to ProCon.org, Apr. 28, 2010

  5. CNN and ORC International, "CNN/ORC Poll," Turner Broadcasting System website, Sep. 29, 2011

  6. Aswath Damodaran, "Annual Returns on Stock, Bonds and T-bill’s: 1928 - Current," New York University Stern School of Business website, Jan. 5, 2015

  7. Aaron Bernstein, "Social Security: Are Private Accounts a Good Idea?," BusinessWeek.com, Jan. 24, 2005

  8. Campaign for America's Future, "Media Advisory: Former Thrift Savings Plan Director to Talk with Reporters about Problems of Privatized Social Security," Campaign for America's Future website, Aug. 22, 2001

  9. Social Security Administration, "Fast Facts & Figures about Social Security, 2009," Social Security Administration website, July 2009

  10. Michael Clingman et al., "Internal Real Rates of Return under the OASDI Program for Hypothetical Workers," ssa.gov, Dec. 2014

  11. Social Security Administration, "Report of the National Commission on Social Security Reform," Social Security Administration website, Jan. 1983

  12. Mark Miller, "What's Your Rate of Return on Social Security?," reuters.com, Oct. 18, 2012

  13. Kathleen Romig, "Social Security: What Would Happen if the Trust Funds Ran Out?," Congressional Research Service, aging.senate.gov, Apr. 25, 2008

  14. Martin Feldstein, "Private Accounts Can Save Social Security," wsj.com, May 2, 2011

  15. Stephen Moore, "Bold Deal for Social Security," cato.org, May 12, 2000

  16. Peter Ferrara, "A Progressive Proposal for Social Security Private Accounts," Institute for Policy Innovation website, June 13, 2003

  17. José Piñera, "How We Privatized Social Security in Chile," July 1, 1997

  18. Social Security Administration, "About Us," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  19. Social Security Administration, "Organizational Structure of the Social Security Administration," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  20. Courtney Baird, "Diving into the Deficit," Committee for Economic Development website, Nov. 6, 2014

  21. Office of Management and Budget, "Historical Tables," whitehouse.gov (accessed Aug. 28, 2015)

  22. Gallup, "Personal Finances: Social Security," gallup.com (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  23. Joseph E. Stiglitz et al., The Economists' Voice: Top Economists Take on Today's Problems, 2013

  24. Social Security Administration, "Social Security History: Supreme Court Case: Flemming vs. Nestor," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  25. Michael D. Tanner, "Is There a Right to Social Security?," cato.org, Nov. 25, 1998

  26. George W. Bush, "Text of President Bush's 2005 State of the Union Address," washingtonpost.com, Feb 2, 2005

  27. President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, "Strengthening Social Security and Creating Personal Wealth for All Americans," ssa.gov, Dec. 21, 2001

  28. Joseph Friedman and Herbert E. Phillips, "The Portfolio Implications of Adding Social Security Private Account Options to Ongoing Investments," Temple University website, Mar. 2010

  29. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "CPI Inflation Calculator," bls.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  30. Social Security Administration, "Contribution and Benefit Base," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  31. Daniel J. Mitchell, "Why Critics of Social Security Personal Retirement Accounts Are Wrong," heritage.org, Feb. 4, 2000

  32. Michael Tanner, "Privatizing Social Security: A Big Boost for the Poor," cato.org, July 26, 1996

  33. Nicole Woo, "Scrapping the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap," thehill.com, May 8, 2014

  34. George W. Bush, Decision Points, 2010

  35. Richard W. Stevenson, "Bush's Social Security Plan Is Said to Require Vast Borrowing," nytimes.com, Nov. 28, 2004

  36. Barry P. Bosworth and Gary Burtless, "Privatizing Social Security: The Troubling Trade-Offs,” brookings.edu, Mar. 1997

  37. William A. Galston, "Why President Bush's 2005 Social Security Initiative Failed, and What It Means for the Future of the Program," wagner.nyu.edu, Sep. 2007

  38. Matt Krantz, "Markets' Fall in 2008 Was Worst in Seven Decades," usatoday.com, Jan 2, 2009

  39. National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, "The Truth about Social Security and Privatization," ncpssm.org (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  40. US Securities and Exchange Commission, "Invest Wisely: An Introduction to Mutual Funds," sec.gov, July 2, 2008

  41. Charisse Jones, "Survey: Americans Have Big Gaps in Financial Knowledge," usatoday.com, May 2, 2015

  42. Annamaria Lusardi and Olivia S. Mitchell, "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," dartmouth.edu, Oct. 2006

  43. Aaron Bernstein, "Social Security," Bloomberg.com, Jan. 23, 2005

  44. Greg Anrig, "Twelve Reasons Why Privatizing Social Security Is a Bad Idea," Century Foundation website, Dec. 13, 2004

  45. Century Foundation, "False Promise: How Social Security Privatization Would Sting Young Adults," tcf.org, Mar. 8, 2005

  46. Dean Baker, "Cutting Our Benefits," inthesetimes.com, Dec. 6, 2004

  47. Federal Bureau of Investigation, "Financial Crimes Report to the Public: Fiscal Years 2010-2011 (October 1, 2009 – September 30, 2011)," fbi.gov (accessed Aug. 17, 2015)

  48. Jason Furman and Betsey Stevenson, "The Effects of Conflicted Investment Advice on Retirement Savings," whitehouse.gov, Feb. 23, 2015

  49. Zach Carter, "Elizabeth Warren Nails GOP Financial Exec," huffingtonpost.com, July 22, 2015

  50. British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), "Business: Your Money: Watchdog Focus on Young Pension Victims," bbc.co.uk, Jan. 5, 1999

  51. Sam Dunn, "Six Scandals from the Darkest Days of an Already Murky Industry," theguardian.com, June 20, 2009

  52. Mark Rice-Oxley and Jennifer Ross, "In Britain and Chile, Lessons for Revamping Social Security," csmonitor.com, Mar. 14, 2005

  53. Robert Genetski, "Administration Costs and the Relative Efficiency of Public and Private Social Security Systems," cato.org, Mar. 9, 1999

  54. Board of Trustees, Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, "The 2014 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds," ssa.gov, July 28, 2014

  55. Christian E. Weller and Edith Rasell, "The Perils of Privatization: Bush’s Lethal Plan for Social Security," Economic Policy Institute website, May 1, 2000

  56. Congressional Budget Office, "Social Security Policy Options," cbo.gov, July 2010

  57. Steve Vernon, "Does Congress Raid Social Security?," cbsnews.com, Oct. 11, 2012

  58. Becca Aaronson, "How Privatized Social Security Works in Galveston," nytimes.com, Sep. 17, 2011

  59. Vito Tanzi, Government versus Markets: The Changing Economic Role of the State, 2011

  60. John Zogby, "Public Opinion and Private Accounts: Measuring Risk and Confidence in Rethinking Social Security," Social Security and Its Discontents: Perspectives on Choice, Ed. Michael Tanner, 2004

  61. Social Security Administration, "FAQs," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  62. Social Security Administration, "Social Insurance Programs," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  63. Social Security Administration, "Historical Background and Development of Social Security," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  64. Jagadeesh Gokhale, "Social Security Reform: Does Privatization Still Make Sense?," Harvard Journal on Legislation, 2013

  65. Brendan Cushing-Daniels and Richard W. Johnson, "Employer-Sponsored Pensions: A Primer," Urban Institute website, Jan. 2008

  66. Social Security Administration, "Social Security Basic Facts," ssa.gov, Apr. 2, 2014

  67. Social Security Administration, "Contribution and Benefit Base," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  68. Social Security Administration, "Report of the 1994-1996 Advisory Council on Social Security: Volume I: Findings and Recommendations," ssa.gov, Jan. 1997

  69. Alliance for Aging Research, "Preparing for the Silver Tsunami," agingresearch.org, July 1, 2006

  70. Elizabeth Arias, "National Vital Statistics Reports: United States Life Tables, 2010," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, Nov. 6, 2014

  71. Stephen C. Goss, "The Future Financial Status of the Social Security Program," ssa.gov, 2010

  72. Steven Pearlstein and Spencer Rich, "Social Security Proposals May Come up Short, Create New Problems," washingtonpost.com, Jan. 8, 1997

  73. Don Rich, "Bush's Fiscal Policy: The Short and the Long of It," A Bird in the Bush: Failed Policies of the George W. Bush Administration, Ed. Dowling Campbell, 2005

  74. Kathryn L. Moore, "Partial Privatization of Social Security: Assessing Its Effect on Women, Minorities, and Lower-Income Workers," Missouri Law Review, Spring 2000

  75. Steven Gillon, "The Pact between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich," usnews.com, May 29, 2008

  76. George W. Bush, "George W. Bush on Social Security" (speech excerpts), ontheissues.org (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  77. Peter Ferrara, "How George W. Bush Lost Personal Accounts for Social Security," forbes.com, Apr. 7, 2011

  78. History Channel, "This Day in History: George W. Bush Forms Commission on Social Security," history.com (accessed Aug. 18, 2015)

  79. Laura Meckler, "Key Seniors Association Pivots on Benefit Cut," wsj.com, June 17, 2011

  80. Brain Dakss, "AARP's Clout, and Social Security," cbsnews.com, Aug. 26, 2005

  81. Jim Drinkard, "Poll: Social Security Plan Support Drops," usatoday.com, Feb. 28, 2005

  82. Brad Plumer, "Ryan Supported Social Security Privatization in 2005. What Was That Again?," washingtonpost.com, Oct. 12, 2012

  83. Jamie Hopkins, "Congress Proposes Three Changes to Social Security That Make Sense," forbes.com, Oct. 29, 2014

  84. Martha M. Hamilton, "How You Would Fix Social Security: Tax Higher Earnings," washingtonpost.com, Oct. 27, 2014

  85. Emily Brandon, "5 Potential Social Security Fixes," usnews.com, Nov. 14, 2014

  86. Jeffrey M. Jones, "More U.S. Nonretirees Expect to Rely on Social Security," gallup.com, Apr. 29, 2015

  87. Janet Novack, "Gallup Poll: Workers Counting on Social Security More Than in 15 Years," forbes.com, Apr. 29, 2015

  88. Pew Research, "Millennials in Adulthood: Chapter 2: Generations and Issues," pewsocialtrends.org, Mar. 7, 2014

  89. Michael Hiltzik, "You Really Want to Privatize Social Security in THIS Market?," latimes.com, Aug. 24, 2015

  90. Social Security Administration, "FY 2016 Budget Overview," ssa.gov (accessed Aug. 28, 2015)

  91. Thornburg Investment Management, "A Study of Real Real Returns," thornburg.com, Aug. 2015

  92. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?," cbpp.org, Mar. 4, 2016

Sources:

"The 2009 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds" (1 MB) , Social Security Administration website, 2009

Statistical Supplement, 2008," Social Security website, Mar. 2009

"Compilation of the Social Security Laws," www.ssa.gov, Jan. 1, 2009

"Current Social Security System Is Unsustainable in the Long Run," Social Security Administration website, Aug. 2009

[Editor's Note: When creating this website between Aug-Nov. 2009, ProCon.org cited a version of this report that had been cached by Google. At the time, the report was not directly available on the SSA website. We contacted the SSA to ask about the report and why it was cached and not available on the SSA website, and, after our call, the cached version had also been removed. As of Aug. 16, 2011, we remain unable to locate the report online although a statement about how SSA communications handled earlier versions of this report is available on the webpage of a member of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (http://democrats.oversight.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2253:ssa-altered-communications-to-undermine-confidence&catid=43:investigations), which we have made into a PDF.]

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Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., "Can Obama Make Government Solvent?" Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21, 2009

"Mid-Session Review: Budget of the U.S. Government" (1 MB) , Office of Management and Budget website, 2009

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Orlo Nichols, Michael Clingman, Kyle Burkhalter, Alice Wade, and Chris Chaplain, "Actuarial Note: Internal Real Rates of Return Under the OASDI Program for Hypothetical Workers," Social Security Administration website, Apr. 2009

Rudolph G. Penner, "Taxes and the Budget: What Does It Mean for a Government Program to Be 'Off-Budget'?," taxpolicycenter.org, Dec. 13, 2007

Libby Perl, "False Promise: How Social Security Privatization Would Sting Young Adults," Century Foundation website, Mar. 9, 2005

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US Supreme Court Case, Flemming v. Nestor , 1960