WASHINGTON -- President Reagan questioned Friday whether young workers now paying Social Security taxes will get a fair deal when they retire, and said, 'These are things we'll be looking at in the coming years.'
In an interview with KMOL-TV, taped Monday in Washington and aired Friday in San Antonio, Texas, Reagan again pledged not to cut benefits for current Social Security recipients. He said 'we have increased' the average benefit, although a government spokesman said later that increase was caused by inflation.
Reagan said: 'If there is anything needed to be done to that program -- and these are things that we'll be looking at in the coming years -- it will have to do with people (who) are presently paying in and whether they are being fairly treated.'
'There is a possibility -- well, probability -- that many people, young people now paying in, will never be able to receive as much as they're paying,' the president said. 'But no plans will be allowed to reduce the payments to the present recipients of Social Security. This has been my pledge from the very beginning.'
Robert Myers, former deputy Social Security commissioner under Reagan and the executive director of the 1982 presidential Social Security commission, disagreed with Reagan's statement. Except for those who die before retirement, young people will get back a 'considerably greater' pension than they paid in taxes, he said.
'I think that young people paying into the system do get a fair deal,' he said. 'They don't get the huge windfalls that those retiring in the early years did, but that's true under private pension plans also.'
Myers, once Social Security's chief actuary, said his calculations show a high-earning single man who turns 65 in 2025 will have paid $983,600 in Social Security taxes and interest. The projected value of his Social Security benefit totals nearly $1.15 million -- 16 percent more than he paid in, Myers said. The outlook is better for married couples, women and lower earners, he said.
That compares with a single high-earning man turning 65 in 1985, who will get back $114,900 in benefits for $38,140 paid in, Myers said.
This is not the first time this year Reagan has picked up the politically hot Social Security potato. In a March interview with The New York Times, Reagan described a 1983 bipartisan financial rescue bill as a 'temporary fix,' and said the program must be revamped.
But White House aides quickly said Reagan plans no changes, even during a potential second term in office. Social Security's trustees say the system will continue to pay benefits on time well into the next century, except under the most disastrous economic conditions.
In the television interview, Reagan also said, 'Since we've been here, we have increased the Social Security payment for the average married couple by $170 a month. More people are getting it and getting more than ever before.'
Jim Brown, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the average retired couple's benefit had risen $180 a month between January 1981, when Reagan took office, and January 1984. The increase was solely due to cost-of-living adjustments, which rise by law with inflation, he said.