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Social Security: The Unfinished Work (HOOVER INST PRESS PUBLICATION) 1st Edition

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0817911942
ISBN-10: 0817911944
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Editorial Reviews


"Chuck Blahous is one of the nation's most knowledgeable experts on Social Security and entitlements. In this book, he draws on his formidable intellect to analyze and fairly portray the many issues involved. His facts are true, his expositions of the controversy's arguments are candid, and his narrative will if widely read help America be better equipped to take responsible action to strengthen and save Social Security." --Karl Rove, former senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush and author of Courage and Consequence

"Social Security: The Unfinished Work brings a wealth of accumulated knowledge and a grounded, commonsense approach to addressing the pressing need for Social Security reform. In this book, Chuck introduces new approaches to old challenges. Anyone who reads this book will walk away with a better understanding of the challenges faced by the American public and our policymakers." --Charles Stenholm, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives (D-TX)

"Chuck Blahous offers a must-read for policymakers and laymen alike. With striking clarity, Blahous provides fresh insights into the Social Security debate. Social Security: The Unfinished Work makes accessible the expertise of one of the country's foremost policy experts on Social Security and offers a wealth of information for anyone interested in this important issue." --Paul Ryan, member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-WI)

Book Description

Drawing on more than fifteen years of work on Social Security policy, first in the U.S. Senate and later in the White House, Chuck Blahous argues that our national Social Security debate is more polarized than it needs to be, even given the depth of legitimate differences over the program’s appropriate future direction. Unless we identify and understand our respective initial assumptions, he explains, we will not be able to fathom the conflicting policy initiatives that they drive. In Social Security: The Unfinished Work he presents some often misunderstood, basic factual background about Social Security. He discusses how it affects program participants and explains the true demographic, economic, and political factors that threaten its future efficacy.


Beginning with a review of the events of 1983, focusing on the substance, intent, and scorekeeping of that year’s Social Security reforms, Blahous explains what happened then, why, and how it led to sharply divergent views of program finances during the Bush administration’s reform initiative and on through today. He dissects competing positions in the current debate and concludes that, unless and until there is broader understanding of how these analytic differences drive opposing policy conclusions, we will continue to talk past and over each other, with little room for negotiation and compromise.



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Hoover Institution Press; 1st edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817911944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817911942
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,237,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Blahous, a Hoover research fellow, currently serves as one of the two public trustees for the Social Security and Medicare Programs. Specializing in domestic economic policy, his areas of expertise include retirement security, with an emphasis on Social Security and employer-provided defined benefit pensions, as well as federal fiscal policy, entitlements, demographic change, economic stimulus, financial market regulation, and health care reform.

From 2007 to 2009, Blahous served as deputy director of President Bush's National Economic Council. From 2001 to 2007, he served as a special assistant to the president for economic policy, first covering retirement security issues and later encompassing energy policy. In 2001, he served as the executive director of the bipartisan President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.

From 2000 to 2001, Blahous led the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a private-sector coalition dedicated to the fiscally responsible reform of Social Security. From 1996 to 2000, he served as policy director for US senator Judd Gregg (R-NH). From 1989 to 1996, he served in the office of Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY), first as a Congressional Science Fellow sponsored by the American Physical Society and, from 1994 to 1996, as the senator's legislative director.

Blahous's latest publications include Social Security: The Unfinished Work (Hoover Press, 2010) and Pension Wise: Confronting Employer Pension Underfunding--and Sparing Taxpayers the Next Bailout (Hoover Press, 2010). He is also the author of Reforming Social Security. He has published in a number of periodicals including National Affairs, Financial Times, Politico, National Review, Harvard Journal of Legislation, Baseball Research Journal, and the Journal of Chemical Physics. He was named to SmartMoney's "Power 30" list in 2005. His public appearances include various radio and television programs including "Ask the White House," and speeches on university and college campuses.

Blahous has a PhD in computational quantum chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and an AB from Princeton University, where he won the McKay Prize in Physical Chemistry.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jason Fichtner on January 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Let me begin by stating my bias right up front, Chuck Blahous is one of my policy heroes. While Washington, DC increasingly seems occupied by partisan vitriol and ad hominem attacks, and media rhetoric takes precedent over substance, Chuck has made a career being an honest-broker. He has a reputation for "telling it like it is" and respecting alternative viewpoints. Chuck has a talent for explaining complex policy issues in manner that is understandable to policymakers, journalists and the public. His book, Social Security: The Unfinished Work, is a testament to Chuck's legacy and is truly a must-read for anyone interested in saving Social Security and ensuring that a treasured program that provides income support for millions of Americans survives for future generations.

In this book, Chuck tells the story of how, over time, Social Security emerged to become one of the nation's most cherished domestic programs. At the beginning of the book he sets the tone in a "Memorandum to the President and Congress" tackling one of the enduring myths surrounding the program today - that we don't have a financing problem until 2037. Further, unlike some reporters in the popular press , Chuck responsibly lays out the truth of the matter -- that we must take action NOW to reform Social Security. Failure to act sooner rather than later guarantees either that Social Security beneficiaries will have to endure an approximate 25% cut in benefits when the trust funds become insolvent in 2037 or that payroll taxes to fund Social Security will have to increase at that point approximately one-third (33%) or more.

By continuing to delay reform, future reform solutions are likely to be less equitable and cause greater economic harm to beneficiaries and/or taxpayers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James M Hamilton on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is another expertly written offering from Blahous. Like his previous works, "Social Security: The Unfinished Work" provides a timely update on the debate over the retirement program's fiscal health and its future. The prognosis? Not so good.

I've spent most of the last sixteen years following this issue closely. I've seen polarization. I've heard all sides of the argument over the program's future. What worries me most about the current status of policy discussions is the deafening silence. It's as if the concern has disappeared.

Blahous's book, then, arrives at a critical time. It is a primer and a prophesy. It provides a cogent history of the issue to policy makers. Without legislative action, though, Social Security and all such federal programs will bleed future generations of their livelihood and power to innovate. As surely as Japan, France, and other countries, the United States must act to avoid a financial calamity from which it can never recover.

Kudos to Blahous and thanks for this effort.
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Format: Kindle Edition
What people need to know before purchasing this book is what it is not intended to do. What is Social Security. Itis surely not a tax even if they call it a payroll tax. That leaves two possibilities left. It is either an insurance policy backed by the U.S. Government with COLA to cover Annual inflation or it is a pension plan paid by the employee and employer in equal percentages and dollars and backed by the U.S. Government with COLA to cover annual inflation. The answer is better defined and answered by the more recent Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). This system is defined as a three part retirement plan that includes a basic annuity, social security, and the Thrift savings Plan (TSP) which both employee and employer pay into all three parts. Retirement is paid based on years of service and a defined formula for the annuity and social security. The TSP is like a 401K retirement investment and depends on how much you put into it and for how long and what you invest it into and how the stocks, bonds, and securities perform. So social security is an obvious substadized pension and not intended to fully support any one person, let alone two people. So, if something needs to change is to enforce employers to provide such benefits for their employees by providing a basic annuity as well. The government should also increase minimum wages so it pays above the poverty level. If prices increase because of the above than the government should place taxes on foreign goods so the final cost for the same products are equal. We need to stop the loopholes used by corporate America. If we can't make our economy work than social programs for the majority of America will never work either. Lastly, this book is outstanding, but one needs to be aware of what it is as well as what it is not.Read more ›
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