The lack of attention by candidates of both parties to the huge entitlements crisis facing this country has been, to say the least, troubling.
But Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with two Washington Post reporters the other day, put new spin on this. Clinton is now not merely avoiding addressing this difficult problem, but also rejects the premise that the problem even exists.
Speaking with the Post's Dan Balz and Ann Kornblut aboard her "Middle Class Express" bus in Iowa, Clinton announced that we have no Social Security problem.
"I do not believe it is in crisis ... I reject the conventional wisdom and the Republican talking points that Social Security is in crisis. I do not agree with that."
Balz expands on Clinton's remarks in his blog, quoting her as saying that "To me Social Security is not a front burner issue ... I don't want to get into negotiating over Social Security while I'm trying to do health care, change our energy policy, and move back to fiscal responsibility and get us out of Iraq."
Ironically, it was not Republicans, but her husband Bill, who declared the Social Security system in crisis as his lead message in his State of the Union address in 1999.
President Clinton said in that address to the nation, "...by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. And by 2032 the trust fund will be exhausted, and Social Security will be unable to pay out the full benefits older Americans have been promised."
The latest report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, issued earlier this year, confirms that the problem still looms large before us. This is no partisan document, but a report on the data cranked out by the actuaries at the Social Security Administration on the state of the system.
It concludes that the state of the Social Security system remains "problematic" and that "Social Security's current annual surpluses of tax income over expenditures will soon begin to decline and then turn into rapidly growing deficits as the baby boom generation retires."
In that State of the Union address back in 1999, President Clinton outlined his own plans for how to address the Social Security crisis.
Those plans never crystallized, however, because Clinton soon thereafter wound up with his hands full, and his attention diverted, as the result of a scandal concerning his activities with an intern named Monica Lewinsky.
Apparently Mrs. Clinton was paying as close attention to what her husband was saying about the state of the Social Security system as she was to his after hours extra curricular activities with this young intern in the Oval Office.
The fact is that the Social Security problem, together with Medicare, is enormous, and together they amount to fiscal quicksand upon which our financial future precariously sits.
Economists from the Wharton School of Business and from the Cato Institute recently estimated in the Financial Analysts Journal the massive scope of our national debt and deficit if we properly accounted for the liabilities in Social Security and Medicare. National debt amounts to $64 trillion, or five times our gross national product, and our real deficit is $2.5 trillion, or the size of the whole federal budget.
Anyone who follows Mrs. Clinton's various proclamations and proposals over time will not be surprised that facts and truth are not her priority. The priority, of course, is saying whatever it takes, in her estimation, to get elected.
While the senator tells us that Social Security is not in crisis, she is proposing massive new government programs, including a hundred billion dollars plus in health care spending and $20 billion in a new government giveaway for retirement savings, that will sink us only into a deeper financial black hole.
Sadly, these burdens will disproportionately fall on the low -and middle -income families that Mrs. Clinton takes politically for granted. Thirty four percent of our Latino population and 32 percent of blacks are under 18, compared to 22 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Worse, Mrs. Clinton's message to folks who need to hear that their ticket to prosperity is exercising personal responsibility in a free country is that without being dependent on government, their future is hopeless.
How the Democratic Party has changed since that January in 1961 when President John Kennedy made his inaugural appeal to "Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country."
A far cry from Mrs. Clinton's "...fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."