Most Americans are aware by now that Social Security is a ticking time bomb. As more baby boomers reach retirement age, the system is supporting more people relative to the number of workers paying into it. This demographic pressure is causing great strain on the funds available for paying out Social Security benefits: it's estimated that the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2033. After that point, the program will pay less and less for every dollar put into it, unless some kind of solution is found. According to a survey conducted by the American Institute of CPAs in April 2016, almost two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults believe that ensuring the survival of Social Security should be the next president's top economic priority.
While all the presidential candidates talk about protecting Social Security, and two of the three remaining candidates have offered specific details on their plans, a big question remains as to whether they can translate these campaign promises to results. When you consider the types of solutions currently being proposed—for example: cutting benefits, raising the retirement age, changing inflation adjustments, increasing the payroll tax cap, or taxing other kinds of income—they generally fall into one of two categories: (1) cutting benefits or (2) increasing revenue. With our current polarized political environment, the major candidates' proposals all fall into one category or the other, mostly the increasing revenue bucket.
By relying on only one type of policy, the chances of getting a Social Security fix through America's already slow and contentious legislative process are much lower, at a moment when time is of the essence. Additionally, many of the policies being proposed are judged based on whether they can fund Social Security over the next 75 years. While this is a good start, by only focusing on the next 75 years the program runs the risk of being focused on buying and selling assets in the near term, leading us to face the same kind of funding crisis again starting in year 76, and worsening as future generations retire. We need a long-lasting solution to the Social Security shortfall. A sustainable, long run solution will likely have to combine elements from both types of policies.
This is an opportunity for the Modern Whig Party to play a role. As a party founded by veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq standing against the country's deepening ideological divide, it embodies the pragmatism, centrism, and spirit of service we need to fix Social Security. Importantly, a long lasting fix for this problem is going to require sacrifice, both on the part of people paying into the system, and on the part of those receiving benefits. The longer we wait, the more painful the adjustment will be.