Social Security is a solemn commitment between our government and hard-working American citizens.
It must be preserved. Unfortunately, Congress is long overdue in addressing problems plaguing the Social Security program. The sooner we address the expected Social Security shortfall, the less expensive the solution will be.
We should ensure that current recipients receive every penny promised and that tomorrow's beneficiaries can look forward to a secure retirement. That is why I have joined the president in urging congressional leaders to take up legislation that would preserve Social Security for the long term.
Here is what we are facing today: There are 3.5 workers for each retiree receiving Social Security benefits. But more than 70 million "baby boomers" are nearing retirement age. By 2010, there will only be two workers for every retiree. That means that each worker will be responsible for 50% of someone else's benefits.
The Social Security and Medicare boards of trustees warn that tax revenues will fall short of benefit outlays by 2018. If no changes are made by 2040, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted, and only 73% of its benefits would be payable then with incoming receipts. Therefore, if Congress does not address the retirement portion of Social Security soon, low-to-moderate-income workers will certainly be saddled with higher taxes - or benefits will be cut.
We must tackle these problems today. In past sessions of Congress, I have co-sponsored legislation that would allow on a voluntary basis - but not require - workers to establish private retirement accounts, while also growing the Social Security trust fund. I also believe that any changes must address the issue of solvency first.
There are very real challenges facing Social Security today. At a time when seniors are living longer, healthier lives - well past retirement - and with so many baby boomers nearing retirement age, the time has come to ensure the long-term success of this program and address its inequities. Either we take some sensible, measured steps to fix Social Security, or we risk the retirement benefits of our nation's current and future seniors. We cannot afford the cost of inaction.