Over the Next 30 Years, the Social Security Trust Funds Will Run a $116 Trillion Shortfall

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If you’ve been following the news from France recently, you know that there have been riots for the last two weeks over President Emanuel Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age by two years. That’s the proximate cause of the riots, but adding to the mob’s anger has been the French government’s refusal to listen to the voters who are losing patience with Macron’s high-handedness.

To illustrate that point, rat catchers in Paris threw rodent cadavers at City Hall Wednesday.

The Associated Press reports that “Natacha Pommet, a leader of the public services branch of the CGT union, said the rat catchers wanted ‘to show the hard reality of their mission’ and that opposition to Macron’s pension reforms is morphing into a wider movement of worker grievances over salaries and other complaints.”

“All this anger brings together all types of anger,” she said in a phone interview with AP.

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When government messes with people’s retirement, it generates fear. But the U.S. Congress is doing far more harm by not dealing with a Social Security crisis that the trustees say will lead to the trust funds running a $116 trillion shortfall in the next 30 years.

Also for our VIPs: Social Security Will Go Broke a Year Sooner Than Expected

The real damage will start in 2033 — one year earlier than previously estimated — when the Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI) trust fund will be depleted. At that point, without some kind of reform, benefits will be cut by 23%. That means that more than 40% of senior citizens who rely exclusively on Social Security for their income will take a 23% pay cut.

It gets worse as the years go by. Veronique de Rugy has been sounding the alarm about the Social Security funding shortfall for more than 30 years — entreaties that have fallen on deaf ears. She points out that both parties are ignoring the problem because they’re terrified the other party will make political hay from any solutions offered.

To pretend that Social Security and Medicare shouldn’t be touched is nothing short of political malpractice. Over the next 30 years, the two programs will run a $116 trillion shortfall. This number accounts for the significant amount of interest payments on the debt the government will ring up in the process. While we might be able to stumble along indefinitely, all that borrowing will slow—perhaps even halt—our economic growth, making funding the programs that much more difficult.

Every generation has the opportunity and obligation to leave the country better than they found it. The Greatest Generation fought and won World War II; the least the boomers and Gen Xers could do is fix this enormous time bomb we call entitlements.

“The Trustees continue to recommend that Congress address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely fashion to phase in necessary changes gradually,” Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Kilolo Kijakazi, said. “Social Security will continue to play a critical role in the lives of 67 million beneficiaries and 180 million workers and their families during 2023. With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.”

Surely, he jests. Perhaps he’s talking about another nation’s legislature. Instead of “informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action,” we’ll get ignorant posturing, repetitive attacks, and delay after delay after delay.

Congress will only act long after it becomes necessary. And then there will still be nothing done because both sides will be too busy “proving” which party is to blame.

Unless there is a radical change in Congress — a change that requires Democrats to stop demagoguing Social Security — there isn’t much hope.

Jason Fichtner is the chief economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank promoting bipartisanship. “Policymakers who are vowing never to touch the program or proposing purely partisan solutions are putting their heads in the sand and steering us toward the cliff,” Fichtner said in a statement. “BPC will continue to work with congressional leaders and executive branch officials in pursuit of urgently needed bipartisan solutions to sustain and improve this program.”

We’d like to think that congressional leaders would take those sentiments to heart, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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