As we all acknowledge the 79th anniversary of Social Security, I must say I find the term misleading. The annual Social Security Trustees report recently came out and it said the program is not exactly “secure,” noting it has a 2033 date with insolvency. If we continue doing nothing, when the program inevitably does become insolvent, all beneficiaries, even the most impoverished, will face a 23 percent cut in benefits.
That’s right! Social Security will be insolvent in 20 years if we don’t do anything. And guess what? We aren’t doing anything.
However, there is good news. The Trustees are telling policymakers that the program can be made secure with a few common sense steps. As they said in very plain English: Act now so the changes can be incremental and spread across years and generations. Wait, and the changes will be drastic.
How did we get in this mess? We can blame it on love and healthier lifestyles and medical advances. You see, after the World War II, Americans were feeling quite frisky. Love was in the air and we produced my generation, the baby boomers. Our numbers are staggering. There are 76.4 million of us, according to the most recent census data. Shortly after Social Security became law, there were 159 workers for every beneficiary. Today, there are three workers for every beneficiary. And when the fund is scheduled to be depleted, there will be just two workers. We are an aging society, and we have more people entering the program than it can sustain. Unless we demand action.
This fall you will hear candidates from all sides talking about the importance of Social Security. There are many existing plans in Congress on how to deal with the long-term outlook, though none have passed. Some bills increase taxes, others curtail benefits and some have a combination. Some legislation calls for a “blue ribbon committee” or a “super committee.” How we get there is less important to me than getting there safely.
Politicians generally have tried to sidestep this issue. Now is the time to put each one on record. Ask your candidate specifically how he or she plans to address this looming train wreck. Then demand accountability after the elections.
president of Creative Communications, Inc.