A Well-Tailored Safety Net

The Only Fair and Sensible Way to Save Social Security

by Jed Graham


Because increasing longevity will put future retirees at great risk of depleting their savings, the ultimate test for Social Security reform is whether it ensures a robust safety net in very old age. Every serious proposal has failed that test by cutting benefits for retirees, whether they are 65 or 95—until now.

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Cover image for A Well-Tailored Safety Net

December 2009


Pages 196
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/U.S. Public Policy and Administration

This intriguing book introduces the first Social Security reform proposal tailored to meet the nation's fiscal challenges and care for an aging population.

Tackling one of the most difficult and divisive issues facing America today, A Well-Tailored Safety Net: The Only Fair and Sensible Way to Save Social Security seeks to transform the political debate over Social Security reform by introducing the first proposal tailored to meet both the nation's fiscal challenges and the responsibility of caring for an aging population.

As the first batch of 77 million baby boomers begins to collect its social security benefits in the midst of the explosion of national debt from economic recovery expenditures, Social Security reform becomes increasingly urgent. Jed Graham takes apart each of the current leading proposals and shows how all of them fall short by the key criteria of affordability, effectiveness, and fairness. Graham proposes a bold new approach that would erase more debt than any other proposal, yet avoid benefit cuts in very old age, when people can least afford them. Short on actuary speak and long on common sense, A Well-Tailored Safety Net makes the Social Security debate accessible to general readers. At the same time, it advances innovative solutions with such command of analytic detail and ideological impartiality as to merit serious study by legislators and policymakers.


  • More than 50 charts and tables detail the debate over Social Security reform, including the cash benefits retirees would get under various proposals


  • Offers the first approach to reform that truly reshapes Social Security to meet the challenge of an aging population, adding progressive new reform options to the unappealing menu of choices now before lawmakers
  • Stands out among serious reform proposals by erasing far more debt than any other proposal to date, while avoiding any benefit cuts in very old age
  • Introduces a complementary set of policies to help workers adapt to less support from Social Security in the earliest years of eligibility so they can retire with maximum support
  • Provides a nonideological, in-depth analysis of Social Security reform proposals across the political spectrum
Author Info

Jed Graham writes about economic policy for Investor's Business Daily. He set about devising a new approach to Social Security reform after reporting on the 2005 battle in Congress, which led him to conclude that none of the solutions being put forward could deliver both an affordable and an effective safety net. Graham's commentary also appears at the economics blog RGE Monitor. This work does not reflect the editorial view of Investor's Business Daily.



"A Well-Tailored Safety Net should be read by every policy wonk or would-be wonk who is focused on the long term fiscal outlook in general and on Social Security in particular. There are two reasons to read it. 1. Author Jed Graham has one original idea that is quite interesting. 2. He offers clear, fair analysis of many of the alternatives for dealing with Social Security."EconLog

"...I urge you to read Graham's A Well-Tailored Safety Net. I'm convinced that it holds the key to making Social Security sustainable in a politically palatable way."National Reveiw Online

"A bonafide Social Security fix...Jed Graham...has a pretty smart proposal."The New Republic


"Jed moves the Social Security debate into the 21st century; he suggests innovative ways to firm up both the work base that pays the bills and the social safety net on which we all depend."—Eugene Steuerle
Institute Fellow
The Urban Institute

"Jed Graham has written a detailed yet readable history of the recent Social Security policy debate, fairly presenting the views of both sides and expanding on the current range of options to assemble his own plan to make this important program sustainable for future generations. A Well-Tailored Safety Net is both well-written and well-thought out, providing readers with insights going beyond the arguments thrown back and forth in newspaper headlines."

—Andrew Biggs, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

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