Now that Alan Greenspan has ignited an election year debate over how to fix Social Security, we've drawn from the Bush Files two documents that show the administration's plans for Social Security during the only time -- the fall of 2001 -- when the President was fully engaged on the issue. A bit of context: the President's Social Security Commission was about to meet with the President before it began public deliberations. In preparation for the sit-down, the President needed to be briefed by his advisers about various options for reforming Social Security. The Council of Economic Advisers, headed by Glenn Hubbard, and the National Economic Council, headed by Larry Lindsey, prepared a 17-page report for the President in the form of a PowerPoint-style presentation. As is clear from his faxed cover sheet, Hubbard wants to talk to O'Neill about that package before it is sent to Bush. O'Neill, however, receives the proposed 17-page briefing for Bush beneath a cover memo from Kent Smetters, a senior Treasury official -- hired by O'Neill after recommendation from Harvard's eminment conservative economist Martin Feldstein -- who is a leading specialist in Social Security reform. Smetters's memo carries pointed suggestions, especially that the President needs to define "what is the meaning" of his rhetoric on this issue so the commission is not confused about its basic guidelines. There is another concern at this point inside Treasury: during the campaign and the first six months of the administration, Larry Lindsey had convinced Bush that there was a so-called "free lunch" option of creating costless personal accounts -- essentially issuing some debt to sustain old-style benefits that would then be serviced and paid down by confiscating some of the higher returns for those opting for new-style personal accounts. That math on this never worked, though it took concerted efforts by Treasury officials and others to press Lindsey, and by association, Bush, to abandon this idea. When Smetters refers to Larry's "plan", this is what he's writing about. Smetters also notes what is common knowledge within the administration's senior ranks about the President's decision making habits -- that a key role will be played by whomever gives Bush his "verbal background briefing." Finally, there is the central question: is the President "willing to live with benefit cuts (i.e. "pain") like that called for by price indexing benefits?" This refers to a little known fact: Americans get an annual increase in their social security accounts based on "wage indexing," which includes adjustments for both productivity growth and cost-of-living increases. Once payouts begin at 62 or 65, it is reduced to just a COLA. The "pain" of price indexing means that productivity growth would be cut out of this equation from the start.