My wife and I drove to San Antonio last weekend so she could attend a bridal shower. Not part of the festivities, I took the opportunity to hit an outdoor pub and catch up on some reading and people watching.
The disconnect between the two hit me like a ton of bricks.
The town is bursting with young energy. You can feel it as you walk through the outdoor shopping areas and make your way through restaurants. There’s a hunger in San Antonio that makes you want to run the economic race a little faster, work a little harder.
Yet in my hands was news about the latest drum beating up in Washington…
The House of Representatives will continue pounding on the Mueller Report even though the Senate won’t take up impeachment efforts. “Uncle Joe” Biden finally entered the race. And, oh yeah, Social Security will go broke in 2035, a year later than previously thought.
Do the young dynamos of San Antonio know that their elected officials are squandering their financial future, fiddling while Rome burns?
Medicare spends every dollar of tax money it receives, plus all the interest it earns on its trust fund, and also some of the principal of the fund. The program will be broke in seven years.
Social Security spends all the tax it receives, plus almost all of the interest it earns on its trust fund. By next year, Social Security will spend all the interest and start spending down the fund. It will be broke before the babies born today start working and paying into the system.
These two programs consume trillions of dollars and are the backbone of our old-age entitlement system. They are wildly popular, and yet our elected representatives refuse to put them on sustainable paths.
We deserve better, but we keep sending people to Washington who spend their time on almost anything but moving the country forward.
From 2011 through 2014, the House of Representatives voted 54 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act when the House leadership knew the measures would go nowhere in the Senate. Today, House leaders are spending their days poring over Mueller’s investigation even though any move toward impeachment would die in the Senate.
Medicare and Social Security march toward a funding cliff.
When the bill comes due for decades of inaction, it will be very expensive, and the politicians won’t pay. Remember, their pensions aren’t part of Social Security.
We will pay. It will be the thousands of young people I saw in San Antonio who are suddenly asked to give up more of their paychecks.
It will be the current teens and tweens, not yet working, who will step into a job and have less to show for it on pay day than their parents because our representatives didn’t do their jobs.
So, before we send the next class of well-paid, pension-guaranteed politicians across the Potomac, each one should be required to provide a specific, detailed answer to a very easy question:
What is your proposal to make Social Security sustainable?
Social security has two components: taxes and benefits. Given the parameters, a 10-year-old could figure out how to fix it.
Raise taxes, lower benefits, or develop a combination of the two. That doesn’t mean the other 534 Congressmen would vote for any one proposal, but we should get, we deserve to get, concrete answers to concrete problems.
We can ask the same question of presidential hopefuls.
With the Democratic field now at 20, we’ll get plenty of slogans and platitudes over the next year-and-a-half. Along with all the fluffy language about change, values, morals, and the ever-present cry of “most important election in the history of the universe,” we should demand a concrete answer to the entitlement funding question from every contender.
And Trump doesn’t get a pass. Where is his piece of legislation to solve the riddle?
I want answers now so that I don’t have to pay more later. Part of my retirement, and part of my investments, depend on it. So far, my representative hasn’t answered the question. My vote for him is in serious jeopardy.
As for the best way to fix Social Security, you can work on the answer yourself. The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget maintains a website that allows you to change the parameters of taxes and benefits and see how they will affect the program.
A note of warning: none of the answers make you feel good, which is why our politicians refuse to take up the issue. If they address Social Security, they might not get re-elected, which appears to be their only goal.