It should be obvious to every American that our entitlement programs – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – now represent the lion’s share of the Federal budget, and are growing at an unsustainable rate. Unfortunately, no realistic solution to this fiscal disaster has ever been seriously evaluated by Congress. Worse, no effort has ever been made by our leaders to honestly inform Americans of the dire severity – and ominous consequences – of our current predicament. Even when President Bush attempted to confront the issue of Social Security – for which he was mercilessly demonized by Democrats and their media partners – he never actually communicated the simple truth to the nation. This was profoundly regrettable, principally because strong public sentiment to reform these programs will only occur when Americans realize the full dimension and gravity of the dilemma that confronts us.
Occasionally, Americans are provided some facts that help explain the problem. We know, for example, that while there used to be eleven workers paying into the Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF) for each beneficiary, soon there will only two. We also know that when the program started in 1935, the average lifespan of Americans was less than 65 years old – the designated retirement age; today, 76 years later, we live on the average 18 years longer, to about the age of 80.
Most of the time, however, what we hear from our leaders are just flat-out lies. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently stated in a television interview that Social Security is solvent for the next forty years. This claim is being echoed by Jacob Lew, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget even though he says it is not a problem for 20 years. This is a preposterous claim that we’ve heard before, specifically when Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill forged their grand compromise in 1983. Surprisingly, the leader who came closest to uttering the actual truth was Al Gore, when he spoke of the Social Security lock box. But because it was the annoying Al Gore, he was skewered in a skit on Saturday Night Live.