msnbc.com
updated 3/16/2005 1:46:02 PM ET 2005-03-16T18:46:02

We received several hundred e-mails in response to our story on Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan speaking out on Social Security and tax reform. Readers were fairly evenly split between those who believe Greenspan is compromising the central bank's independence and those who think his opinion should be sought out as one of the few "wise men" with deep experience overseeing the economy.

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Here are some of the more thoughtful responses we got. Some e-mails have been edited for length and style:

I think that I can trust Greenspan's ideas on Social Security and fiscal policy over any politician. I want to hear from someone with ideas that are not based in political dialogue but talks from a wealth of personal experience and knowledge and is trying to do what is best for the country. This should not be a political debate. What better person of experience and integrity on these questions than Alan Greenspan? — Nick, Baltimore, Md.

Alan Greenspan is iconic to American survival in the last few decades.  He has seen more things happen than anyone on Capitol Hill financially, and I feel he’s never really messed things up. He has handled a position of extreme power with a dignity and poise that a lot of presidents don’t accomplish. I have upmost respect for him and his years of public service. — Josh, Tallahassee, Fla.

Greenspan's opportunity to reform Social Security was in 1983, and the reform he selected then was to maintain the traditional system rather than establishing personal investment accounts, and to strengthen the system by bringing in more revenue and investing it in Treasury bonds. Speaking out now compromises the independence of the central bank, as did Greenspan's testimony in favor of tax cuts in 2001 that led to the massive deficits the nation is running now. It is ironic that the nation might have been able to pay for the private accounts that both Alan Greenspan and George Bush want without raising new tax revenue if we had only maintained the sort of budget discipline that prevailed in the late 1990s. — Charlie H.

I applaud him speaking out — even on matters that may not directly concern finances.  Isn't that what America's really all about, after all — freedom?  I also feel his comments "level the field" a bit for President Bush, who is WAY too often the subject of liberal media attacks. — Dale B., Riverside, Calif.

I do not trust Greenspan's assessment of the problems facing Social Security, the budget and the tax system. But he is a major indicator of what the financially elite — who control the supposedly "independent" central bank — want. As far as "speaking freely" goes, he is no more, and no less, a puppet than Bush & Co. — J.R., Kansas City, Mo.

Four presidents wouldn't have appointed and reappointed unless the guy knew what he was talking about. His deft manipulation of interest rates helped stave off another Depression, and the economy is growing slowly and strongly, which is where we need to be. I, for one, will be sad to see him go, but he's very much earned his retirement. — Robert M., Mesa, Ariz.

He has compromised the independence of the central bank and revealed himself as the partisan Republican hack that he is. How could anyone advocate replacing the current income tax with a consumption-based tax which shifts the tax burden more onto the backs of the poor and middle class? His retirement is long overdue. — Dan R. Akron, Ohio

He is absolutely compromising the independence of the central bank. He should stay out of the political fray. Everyone has known for a long time that he is a closet Republican. At least now he is showing his true colors instead of hiding behind financial-speak gibberish as he has done in the past. — Kim P., Ionia, Mich.

Greenspan is right on the mark, as usual. His words cannot be discounted because he has no political agenda to promote. He's not running for office. He obviously cares deeply about the younger generations of Americans that are going to have to pay the bill for Social Security. Social Security worked fine in its time but has outlived its usefulness. When it began, the United States was trying to remove older workers from the workforce to make way for younger workers. This is no longer the case with the baby boomers retiring. The higher returns of personal accounts will offset the looming Social Security shortfall. — James K., Alexandria, Va.

I think Greenspan should keep his opinion to himself and concentrate his office on monetary policy in a neutral and quiet way. His involvement in political commentary and stock market interference is keeping the markets from functioning naturally. — James B., Astor, Fla.

How can we trust Greenspan anymore after he agreed with Bush's first tax cuts in the assumption that the surplus would materialize? As we now see, it didn't happen. Greenspan of all people should know not to count chickens when it comes to monetary policy. For him to agree with privatizing Social Security even though it would drive the deficits through the roof sounds pretty fishy to me. — Carol B., Church Hill, Tenn.

Alan Greenspan deserves to participate in the debates on Social Security, the budget and taxes.  A robust debate, not political positions, is what is needed to flush out long-term solutions.  Social Security needs to be strengthened, the tax system made simpler. All with a balanced budget. — Robert W.

I believe he is expressing the truth of what he believes is best for the U.S. economy. Anytime someone supports the action of President Bush they call him political. The Democrats and the media have no meaningful alternative to propose. Their only action is to attack without any ideas as to what would be the best for the country. Socialism is not the answer for this country. — Bill M., San Diego

Social Security is not a "political question". Social Security is a large government insurance program that has a profound effect on our economy. Alan Greenspan is not compromising the independence of the central bank. He is an economist who has views he should be allowed to state. He prefaced his talk by clearly stating that the opinions he was offering were his own. I trust Greenspan's assessment of the budget. He emphasizes the importance to the economy of reducing/eliminating the federal budget deficit. He offers an opinion on how to achieve that —by reinstating the types of procedural restraints contained in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. They worked before — they should work this time. Clinton left office with a budget surplus. Bush is burying us all in a mountain of debt. — Deb M., Monument, Colo.

I think Greenspan needs to spend some time in local communities across America and talk to some real people who work for a living. Washington is not a real place, and living a life of numbers and spreadsheets like Greenspan has done is not real either. Real people with real concerns and real bills to pay with limited money live far away from Washington, D.C. — Rick B.,  Henderson, Nev.

Free speech and an exchange of ideas is the basis of good government. If we can't talk about the problems, how can they be addressed? Most of the politicians who need to periodically face the voters are way too craven. Alan Greenspan has spent most of his life studying the U.S. economy and its many complex interactions. This gives him very unique insights that can be of use. — Michael L., Oceanside, Calif.

It cannot be disputed that he knows more than MSNBC on the way the nation's economy works.  Why would you call his leadership into question? Something needs to be done about Social Security, and as a 33-year-old I am willing to invest part of my money in the stock-market. Aren't I already doing that with my 401(k)?  Another interesting thing to note is that the stock market started rising and becoming stronger with the introduction of 401(k)s and other stock market-based retirement plans. — Kim, Sheboygan, Wis.

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