Happy Birthday Social Security

Social Security turned 75 today! While the program remains vigorous after all these years, it is beginning to show its age. Unlike those that depend on it, retiring Social Security is not an option, which means that action will be required. Whether it continues to thrive 75 years from now and beyond is up to us and the decisions we make in the near future.

Social Security recently had its yearly check up, in the form of the annual report from the trustees overseeing the program (see our analysis of the report here). The results indicate that its health is in decline. It will run a cash flow shortfall this year and next and run increasing deficits from 2015 onward. In 2037 the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted and the program will no longer be able to pay full benefits.

Although the long-term prognosis is not so good, there is no need to pull the plug. Drastic action is not required, as long as we act reasonably now. With some relatively minor adjustments, Social Security can be restored and strengthened to serve future generations. The sooner the changes are made, the easier the medicine will be to swallow. Ignoring the diagnosis will only result in more painful measures down the road.

Over the past week and a half The Bottom Line’s Social Security blog series has examined the program, where it stands, and what needs to be done to ensure its future. We have explored topics such as its long-term outlook, how it affects the overall budget picture, options for reform and the international perspective. CRFB’s analysis of the trustees report offers a comprehensive look at Social Security.

The purpose of the paper and blog series is to start a constructive conversation about Social Security and its future. We need to move beyond the false choices presented by some and to take a hard look at how Social Security can remain the vital program that it has been. Only through thoughtful discourse and sensible solutions can we guarantee that it will be around another 75 years and beyond.

Happy Birthday Social Security. While our gift may not be shiny, we hope it helps ensure many more birthdays.