Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

John J. Pitney Jr.

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Most Americans rely on social security as a significant source of retirement income, but without congressional action, the program’s projected insolvency threatens to reduce benefits for all covered retirees. This thesis explores a path forward to legislating a fix by evaluating several proposed provisions. First, this thesis analyzes the premises and purposes of the program’s structure. By intentional design, program executives and lawmakers fostered acceptance of the program as a type of insurance. Second, this thesis assesses how lawmakers previously approached reform to apply it to the present issue. Throughout both the program’s first and last forty years, lawmakers reinforced the program’s insurance premise while expanding and maintaining the program. Third, this thesis assesses proposed revisions, evaluating them in a historical and contemporary context while also considering potential consequences. Finally, this thesis considers a path forward to legislating a fix, putting forward more and less aggressive alternatives for each provision. I argue that party control of the House and the degree of the control of the rest of the government will determine the aggressiveness of the agenda that the House majority can undertake. With more control, the majority can be more aggressive. Regardless, I conclude that leaders must be willing and able to negotiate in our polarized political environment to pass any fix.