Social Security and the Politics of Assumptions
This article addresses the importance of economic and demographic assumptions in framing the public policy process. It examines functions of such assumptions as an important aspect of government and as a new challenge for public managers. Using Social Security as a case study, the article suggests that recent fore- casts have been inaccurate for four basic reasons: (I) the social and economic environment, (2) technique, (3) assumption drag, and (4) politics. Nevertheless, the assumptions have been crucial at several key legislative turning points in recent Social Security reforms. The article reviews the impact of political pressure in three specific instances and suggests an emerging pattern in the use and misuse of assumptions. The article concludes with suggestions on how to address the importance of assumptions in the public policy process.