Commentary: Senate needs more Bob Doles

This compromise proves that bipartisanship can resolve serious national problems. It is a clear and dramatic demonstration of how effectively our system works when men and women join together for the common good.

The quote comes from a note that President Reagan wrote to former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, thanking Dole for spearheading a bipartisan reform of Social Security in 1983.

Now, 27 years later, Social Security needs additional reforms to extend its solvency. But are there enough members of Congress willing to set aside politics and rigid ideologies to find workable solutions, as Dole did? Are there any Bob Doles in the Kansas delegation and among this year's congressional candidates?

It doesn't look promising.

A report this month from the Social Security trustees estimated that Social Security's combined retirement and disability trust funds would be able to pay full benefits until 2037. At that point, Social Security would be able to cover about three- fourths of its benefits.

Though that's still some years away, the sooner reforms begin, the less drastic they have to be. Also, because of the down economy, Social Security is paying out more in benefits than it receives in taxes. Those deficits are expected to become permanent by 2015, which will add additional strain to the federal budget.

Social Security faced similar challenges in the 1980s. But thanks to Dole's leadership, Congress was able to significantly extend the solvency of the program by increasing payroll taxes and slowly increasing the retirement age.

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