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Seniors Weigh In on Social Security Reform

Members of Sun City, Arizona's West Valley Biking Club. From left: Herbert Cuevas, Paul Nystrom, Don Pearson and Bernhard Kalkhorst. As retirees live longer, the number of workers paying into Social Security is lagging behind.
John Ydstie, NPR
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Members of Sun City, Arizona's West Valley Biking Club. From left: Herbert Cuevas, Paul Nystrom, Don Pearson and Bernhard Kalkhorst. As retirees live longer, the number of workers paying into Social Security is lagging behind.

President Bush has put reforming Social Security at the top of his second-term agenda, calling a projected $3.7 trillion funding gap over the next 75 years a "crisis" that requires dramatic action. The centerpiece of the president's plan would divert Social Security taxes into private accounts.

Opponents argue private accounts would worsen the problem. They say there's no crisis and the system could be fixed with relatively minor changes. And polls show that a strong majority of seniors agree that Social Security needs only minor fixes.

For the current generation of retirees, Social Security provides about $14,000 a year and replaces about 40 percent of the average worker's pre-retirement wages. One in five retirees relies solely on Social Security for income. For two out of three retirees, the program provides more than half of their financial support.

In the first of three reports on how Americans of different generations view Social Security and the president's proposed reforms, NPR's John Ydstie talks with retirees in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.