Bill Shipman Speaker & Booking Information

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Thirteen years ago Bill Shipman invited 25 people to Boston to discuss an issue most participants had rarely considered, Social Security. The participants were responsible for the retirement plans of the largest corporations and state pension funds in America. The four-hour session was led by the Commissioner of Social Security who served under Presidents Reagan and Bush (41).

The next year, 1994, the Commissioner asked Shipman to testify to Congress and offer his views on Social Security. In October Bill Shipman testified that the Social Security system, however compassionate in intent, was fundamentally flawed in design and financially unsustainable. He suggested that the country consider reforming the system from a tax-based to a market-based structure wherein individuals save and invest for their retirement needs.

Shipman's comments were observed by the Cato Institute, one of Washington's prominent think tanks. The following year Cato requested that he write a paper to be published by Cato and asked him to be the co-chairman of Cato's Project on Social Security Choice.

In 1996 Bill Shipman co-authored “Promises to Keep: Saving Social Security's Dream” which was modeled after his 1994 testimony. The importance of “Promises” is that it was written by two people from the financial services industry, the industry that would play a pivotal role in Social Security's fundamental reform.

Within a couple of years there was another meeting, much smaller, just a handful people. They discussed reforming Social Security along the lines of a defined contribution plan with personal property rights. This was an important gathering because one of the participants moved on and became the President of the United States.

When then Governor Bush campaigned for the presidency he promoted Social Security reform. This was unusual. Most politicians avoided the subject for the political risks were considered too high. Bush saw it differently. He promised that if elected, he would appoint a commission to provide answers for reform, and he did.

In the mid-term elections of 2002, all candidates for both the Senate and House who ran on Social Security reform won. This outcome was some evidence that from a political point of view Social Security reform was no longer a losing issue.

During the 2004 campaign President Bush again ran on Social Security reform as did more candidates for Congress. All prevailed except for one Senate candidate.

In his State of the Union Address in January, 2005 President Bush devoted about twenty percent of his speech to Social Security. Providing this amount of time for a single domestic policy issue was unusual, perhaps unprecedented. He then went on the road to sell his idea.

In his 2006 State of the Union Address the president devoted only eight sentences to Social Security, two of them suggesting a new commission to study Social Security's future. The political oxygen so necessary for reform went elsewhere. 

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