Alice Rivlin: 'Stars Aligned' on Social Security

Alice Rivlin: 'Stars Aligned' on Social Security

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A key Democrat on President Obama’s deficit commission predicted on Wednesday that the bipartisan panel would come up with recommendations to shore up Social Security. “The stars are aligned,’’ said Alice Rivlin, a former budget director under President Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“I do expect that some long-run changes in Social Security, both on the benefit side and on the revenue side, are likely to be part of a package,” she continued, speaking at a forum hosted by AARP, the lobbying group for senior citizens. “This is a convenient moment to do this. The only better time to fix Social Security than this year is last year or the year before.”

Though Rivlin cautioned that nobody would reach any agreements before the elections, her prediction was more optimistic than the conventional wisdom in Washington, which holds that Republicans and Democrats on the commission will deadlock and fail to agree on anything before their Dec. 1 deadline.

Rivlin is an important bridge-building figure on the deficit commission. A lifelong Democrat, she is widely respected as an authority on fiscal policy and has insisted that Social Security has serious long-term financial problems. Her positions have often rankled ardent supporters of Social Security, like the labor unions and seniors lobby.

Rivlin and Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., are co-chairs of the fiscal commission’s working group on Social Security, Medicare and other mandatory spending programs.

John Rother, AARP’s senior vice president and top lobbyist, sharply disagreed with Rivlin’s view that Americans were ready for changes or that a deal was feasible.

“I don’t think were anywhere close to that,’’ Rother said, adding that AARP’s polling shows that most Americans do not want to change Social Security simply to address the government’s broader deficit problems.

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