With Gov. Mitt Romney's selection of my House Budget Committee colleague Paul Ryan to be his running mate, the adult conversation about the drivers of our $16 trillion debt: entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and the $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities is now taking centerstage in the national debate.
Of these programs, Social Security is in the best fiscal shape, with a $2.7 trillion surplus. But as this article that ran in the Lafayette Journal & Courier points out, since 2010, Social Security has been paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes, and the surplus will be gone by 2033. From there until 2086, the program will rack up an estimated $30.5 trillion shortfall (based on 2012 dollars), unless we act to reform it.
When Social Security was initially created by President Franklin Roosevelt, it was supposed to function as insurance against living in poverty in our old age. But over the years, it has become an annuity program. The retirement age has been lowered, even as Americans' life expectancy has increased. And the decreasing number of workers per retiree -- from a 5-to-1 ratio in 1960 to a 2-to-1 ratio estimated in 2035, has threatened Social Security's long-term sovereignty.
If we act soon to reform Social Security -- for example, by indexing the normal retirement age to longevity standards -- we have the "luxury" of doing so without affecting the benefits of current and soon-to-be retirees, while still ensuring that the safety net remains for future generations. If we fail to act, as we've done with Medicare and Medicaid, we'll face much more difficult choices if we want to keep our skyrocketing deficits under control.
Thank you for your continued interest in Congress and for supporting my efforts in Washington. Take care.