Paul Jacob

This year Social Security will hit its budget crisis, seven years ahead of schedule. In 2010, the wizards in Washington will have to pay out more to beneficiaries than we’re paying in via our payroll taxes.

During the Bush years, in the wake of proposals to set up private, individual retirement accounts — and not run Social Security as a huge Ponzi scheme — politicians seemed to stand together on one foothold of common ground: 2017 (the prophesied year of redness) was a long way off.

Critics of the administration’s proposal did more than suggest that Bush was out to ruin Social Security. But, ahem, now the crisis is here.

Game Change FREE

Politicians did think they had some time. The first year of running into the red was thought, then, to be more than a decade away.

Decades just aren’t what they used to be.

It’s obvious to those with common sense (may I say, especially to readers of my Common Sense e-letter?) that timing is important. Hit the brakes before impacting the wall. You prevent disasters, don’t wait for them to happen, and then “heroically” step in.

Enter stage Left: Democrats’ support for their just enacted and signed-into-law medical reform package.

Wise counsel would have them fix existing entitlement programs before inventing new ones. But to excite their base for this year’s congressional elections, the Democrats fiscal fix was to apply for a new credit card, max it out on new spending, and let older debt lurch closer to default.

The new medical industry reforms, meanwhile, will almost certainly INCREASE future outlays by government and medical costs all around -- just when more funds will be needed to meet Social Security problems.

Over and over, we are being told that the new health care system will "cost us less." But the chief evidence given for this, that I’ve seen, is the brain-dead point that "out-of-pocket costs" will be less. By this proponents mean: What you have to pay when you visit the doctor or hospital. The government cannot mean that those new services won’t be paid, that costs won’t go up.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.