Walter E. Williams

 There are some "optimists" who seek to minimize the pending disaster that will be caused by these and other federal unfunded liabilities. They argue that the federal government can always meet its obligations through its power to tax. According to some estimates, by 2030, Social Security and Medicare obligations alone will require a 50 percent increase in payroll taxes. If tax increases are off the table, 2030 will see a 30 percent reduction in promised Social Security benefits and stringent rationing of health care services promised by Medicare. There's another "solution." Even though Congress can't increase our life-expectancy, they can raise the age of Social Security and Medicare eligibility. Were Congress to make 80 as the age for Social Security and Medicare eligibility, they'd solve the problem because most of us would be dead.

 Let's look at the raw politics of the Social Security/Medicare situation. Few, if any, of our 535 congressmen will be around in 2030 and later when the real crunch comes, but they are subject to today's, not tomorrow's, political pressures. Similarly, few of today's Americans 65 years of age and older will be around. Other than mouthing a concern for future generations, both have little economic incentive to be concerned about what happens in 2030. After all, what do they have at stake?

 In 2030, will young people in the labor force be willing to see themselves taxed at Social Security rates of 20, 30 and 40 percent to take care of some old people? I don't think that will politically fly, and they might begin to get ideas about euthanasia. In addition to economic strife, Social Security and Medicare are laying the groundwork for intergenerational conflict. Unfortunately, the politics of today don't give us room to prevent these twin disasters.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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