Washington -- At the May 18 Economic Roundtable hosted by the Treasury Department which addressed strategies to strengthen the Social Security program, Treasury Secretary John Snow told attendees that whatever solution is adopted, it must be a permanent one.

"We need to make the system solvent on a permanent basis," Snow told the panel. "Too many times now Social Security has been patched up with tax increases and other band-aids that get us through a few more years, but don't offer a lasting answer."

In addressing President Bush's controversial proposal of a "progressive indexing" of benefits, Snow said, "By slowing the rate of growth of benefits for wealthier Americans, we can protect the future benefit levels for lower income people. Under this approach, those most in need will retire with benefits which are greater than the current system can deliver while higher income people will see their benefits rise over current levels, but at a slower rate."

Participants included Harvey S. Rosen, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers; Ben Stein, renowned author, economist, lawyer, and entertainer; Mark J. Warshawsky, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy; and Carolyn L. Weaver, former Director of Social Security & Pension Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Said Snow, "Let me be clear that the promises of the system do not have to change. We can keep the promises - more accurately, we can improve the system to deliver on the promises."

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