President Bush today repeated his call for lawmakers to help him reform the Social Security system.[@@]

In a speech here in Washington at a gathering organized by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, Washington, the president argued that the system is heading toward failure and must be reformed to ensure that it “is there for our children.”

Without help, the president said, in the year 2017 more money will be coming out of the Social Security system than will be going in. The system will go broke in 2041, the president said.

“The longer we wait to fix this problem, the more drastic the solution becomes,” he said, adding that the Social Security trustees have told him that for every year the government waits before reforming the system, the cost of a solution goes up by $600 billion.

“If we wait, it’s conceivable that younger workers could have to pay a payroll tax of 18%,” Bush said. “That won’t work.”

Bush said “all ideas are on the table,” and he said he would consider any proposals offered to reform Social Security, regardless of where they come from. “If someone puts an idea on the table,” he said, “you can rest assured that the White House won’t attack them.”

But Bush said he opposes any “temporary fix” and also opposes raising the payroll tax.

Bush himself has proposed easing the sting of any reforms by creating a “solvency-neutral” system of private accounts that would be funded with a portion of workers’ payroll taxes and go into a special system of conservative, closely supervised investment funds.

Federal employees, including members of Congress, already have the option of participating in a similar personal retirement account program, Bush said.

“If this idea of putting some money in a personal account is good enough for the United States Congress, it’s good enough for working Americans,” Bush said.

The president also praised House lawmakers for voting to permanently eliminate the estate tax, and he called on the Senate to follow suit. The tax is being phased out, but it is set to return in 2011 if Congress fails to act.

“I believe we ought to bury the death tax forever,” Bush said.

Permanently eliminating the estate tax would inject life into the small business community, increase fairness in the tax code and help promote economic security, Bush said.