May 14, 2015

Colvin Endorses Increase In Full Retirement Age -- Apparently Not

     Carolyn Colvin, Social Security's Acting Commissioner, has given an interview to Government Executive magazine. Unlike just a couple of months ago Colvin seems to not be expecting re-nomination for a term as Commissioner. She had been nominated in the last Congress but the Senate never voted on the nomination. She can continue as Acting Commissioner until a Commissioner is nominated and confirmed. Whatever chances she might have had of being nominated and confirmed take a big hit in the last paragraph of the Government Executive piece where Colvin appears to endorse an increase in Social Security's full retirement age.

     Update: To explain what happened after I posted this, you need to understand how all Commissioners of Social Security have dealt for decades with questions about the future financing of Social Security. They always say something like "There are a variety of ways of dealing with the long term financing of Social Security." When asked about a specific way of dealing with the long term financing issues, such as increasing the retirement age or lifting the F.I.C.A. cap, they say "That's one of many ways of dealing with the long term financing issues." Commissioners never express a preference for one technique over another. As much as possible, they want to keep themselves and their agency out of the political crossfire. I expect that they must make firm promises on this score to the White House and to various Senators before nomination and confirmation.
     In the original Government Executive article, Colvin was reported to have mentioned increasing the retirement age as a possible solution (and it would only be a partial solution) for Social Security's long term financing issues without mentioning other possible solutions. If Colvin actually said that, it would have been a massive departure from normal practice which would worry a lot of people.
     The last paragraph in the Government Executive article has been changed and now reads:

In the long term, said the acting commissioner with 20 months to go, “We hope Congress will [take a bipartisan approach], as was done in 1983 under the Greenspan Commission. Our agency’s role is to provide data and analysis to the White House and Congress on the impact of the various proposals.”
     The fact that this appeared in the last paragraph of the piece to begin with suggests that the reporter didn't understand the significance of what he was reporting and that he may not have been as careful in reporting exactly what he had been told as he should have been.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't get that impression , reading the article? Can you please clarify? Thank you.

Doug Walker said...

Mr. Hall,

Thanks for calling your attention to this interview highlighting Acting Commissioner Colvin's long-term vision. The Government Executive story (http://www.govexec.com/technology/2015/05/social-securitys-acting-chief-pushes-long-term-vision/112738/) was updated shortly before 10:00 this morning to correct the inaccurate assertion that the Acting Commissioner supports raising the retirement age. Ms. Colvin supports a bipartisan approach to reform like the Greenspan Commission, but did not endorse the commission's specific findings.

The quote now correctly reads, "In the long term, said the acting commissioner with 20 months to go, “We hope Congress will [take a bipartisan approach], as was done in 1983 under the Greenspan Commission. Our agency’s role is to provide data and analysis to the White House and Congress on the impact of the various proposals.”

The article now includes this correction, "Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify Colvin's long-term vision for Congress."

Best,
Doug Walker
Deputy Commissioner for Communications
Social Security Administration

Anonymous said...

IE We changed the story to lessen the pushback we were getting.

Anonymous said...

What did the article originally say?

Anonymous said...

That Colvin endorsed raising the retirement age level. But they mis-spoke....

Anonymous said...

All the things that have been said on this blog and nobody from the agency chimed in, but suggest the commissioner may have an opinion about an important and pretty basic aspect of the Social Security program and you got someone in the top 20 of the organizational chart stepping in immediately to clear things up.

Shows what's important to these people...

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