For years, many have warned that the tax dollars the Treasury Department receives to pay for Social Security will not cover the program’s cost by 2034. In the summer of 2021, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) argued against the semi-socialist Build Back Better proposal. In part, he said the government spending was out of control, the deficits were too high, and Congress needed to fix Social Security.
Democrats didn’t decry him for his position. Instead, they generally ignored him. As Republicans now debate among themselves how to go about solving the problem, polling continues to show that fixing Social Security is a top priority for Americans.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have kicked the can down the road for thirty years. In some way, it’s understandable. Any talk of reform to Social Security becomes an immediate attack by the Left, who claim to be the guardians of the social safety net.
Here’s the problem… By only resorting to demagoguing, doing nothing, and attacking any idea of reform, they are ultimately hurting those who depend on the program today or soon will over the next decade.
Consider this. In the late 1990s, some politicians proposed using the massive government surpluses to strengthen the bedrock retirement supplement. It failed as Republicans pushed tax cuts instead. In 2005, Democrats lambasted former President George W. Bush’s proposal to partially or wholly privatize the retirement plan without considering any of the proposal’s merits. Now, here we are again. Nothing has changed politically, but the consequences have gotten worse.
In 2034, 18 million participants in the program will immediately get a 21% cut in benefits if Congress doesn’t reform Social Security.
Do you think there will be a political consequence, then?
Of course, there will be.
Yet, short-sightedness and a lack of planning today will make matters worse tomorrow.
The reason politicians don’t want to touch it is simple: Social Security insolvency is a long-term problem that doesn’t have short-term consequences for them.
Translation. Congress will do something when it’s too late, and tens of millions of Americans or more are impacted. It’s political incompetency and malfeasance at best. Until such time comes, the Democrats will use Social Security as a fear tactic for votes.
Americans on both sides of the political spectrum must demand the fear-mongering stop in order to solve the problem.
According to Princeton Professor of Politics and Public Affairs R. Douglas Arnold, there are only five options.
- Incrementally make changes to the program to shore it up a little at a time, increasing taxes along the way.
- Partially or fully privatize Social Security.
- Create an advanced-funded, “defined-benefit” program for young workers.
- Use the general fund and national debt to continue funding it.
- Do nothing and face the consequences later.
Instead of using fear, let’s demand both sides work in good faith to solve the problem.
There aren’t going to be easy solutions to this complex mathematical and political challenge.
Perhaps a deal only gets done if one party rules Washington, DC. Still, Democrats weren’t interested in doing much in 2021 and 2022.
Still, partisan majorities will only lead to extreme solutions. This needs to be a bipartisan affair. It is the only way to prevent Social Security from becoming a polarizing political issue fraught with attack ads, fear-mongering, and dagger-pointing.
Good luck to us all.
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