America's fiscal house is in trouble. According to the 2006 report of the trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, the two entitlement programs owe $37 trillion more in benefits than they will be able to pay. If you've ever held budgetary responsibilities for an organization ranging from a Fortune 500 company to a family of four, you know that some debt is ok but debt that is piled so high it will bankrupt you is foolishness. The US government faces piles upon piles of debt that is unsustainable over the next twenty-five years.
The job of any social unit, whether it be the family, the city, state, or federal government, is to anticipate a potential disaster. The problem is clear and now the courage to act together is what is needed to avert the upcoming crisis we will impose upon any person below 30.
I believe in the system and believe the system can self-correct, so this column is an appeal to our leaders on both sides of the house to work together for change. The problem after all is only escalating in staggering proportions.
In 2005, economists estimated that Social Security trust funds would be depleted by 2042. Just one year later, in 2006, economists revised their earlier estimates and declared that the funds would be depleted by 2040. Meanwhile, Medicare—hindered in part by an enormous prescription drug benefit approved in 2003—also speeds toward insolvency.
How did we get here? Well, the facts on the ground are startling.
In the 1950s, there were approximately 16 workers to support one recipient of Social Security benefits. Today that number has dwindled to a little over 3 workers per benefit-recipient—and by the time the youngest members of today's workforce retire there will be only two workers per benefit-recipient.
Despite such a gloomy future, politicians in Washington have long refused to offer credible solutions for our looming fiscal crisis. President Bush is a notable exception to this rule, as he used his post re-election momentum to push, albeit unsuccessfully, for Social Security reform in 2005. Unfortunately, Democrats—and most Republicans for that matter—refused to support the president's plan, largely for political reasons.
We could ill afford such political posturing then and we certainly can not afford it now. Instead, we need Congress and the White House to devise innovate, bipartisan solutions to fix our entitlement programs. Surprisingly, the framework for such bipartisanship is already in place. In fact, it has been for nearly seven years.
Doug Wilson is the the co-author, with Edwin Feulner, of Getting America Right: The True Conservative Values Our Nation Needs Today.
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