There are two constant refrains about the Social Security crisis. One, we are lectured that payouts have already exceeded revenue. Two, we are promised that only future generations, currently far from retirement age, will have to work longer and get less to ensure that the system is solvent.
But if all that math is true, why wait to act? If Americans assume that our children and grandchildren may well have it worse than the baby boomers, then why not rework existing retirement plans right now, either by freezing cost-of-living raises or increasing the retirement age? Otherwise, we send the message that a more affluent generation can demand that a less affluent generation should make all the sacrifices.
It might seem ecologically noble to divert federal irrigation water from hundreds of thousands of acres of California agricultural land to ensure year-round flowing rivers and the health of small fish species. And if we do not wish to drill for more petroleum, then subsidizing the diversion of Midwestern silage land to ethanol production would likewise seem to make sense.
But at some point, someone is going to have to tell the people that the less land you produce food on, the less food you have, and the more you pay for what is available. In a time of spiraling food prices, that honest message has rarely been delivered.
The United States needs some Harry Truman-like plain speaking, instead of each administration putting off a national reckoning onto the next. Don't drill for oil and grow food -- and the price for both goes up. Spend what you don't have, and later you will have to pay even more back. The generation that ran up the debt and was largely responsible for the Social Security crisis has a responsibility to make things right on its watch.
Such blunt talk is considered political suicide for candidates; in fact, anything less for the rest of us is national suicide.