Orlando Sentinel: Make Social Security Part of Budget Solution

While many in Washington are bracing for more partisan brinksmanship in the upcoming negotiations over the debt ceiling and a potential government shutdown, it is easy to overlook the fact that these fiscal debates present an opportunity for a bipartisan compromise on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal. This morning, the Orlando Sentinel published an editorial making that case for including Social Security in the debate:

Any credible strategy can't exclude the largest federal program, Social Security, with a budget topping $800 billion this year. Social Security has been paying out more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes since 2010, drawing on its trust fund.

Social Security's trust fund is on track to be depleted by 2033, when all beneficiaries in the program would face an abrupt 23-percent cut in benefits. And the longer Washington waits, the greater the cost of keeping Social Security solvent for the long term — whether it's with tax hikes, benefit cuts or some combination.

This echoes the argument laid out in CRFB's recent paper, Social Security Reform and the Cost of Delay, which has received considerable attention in the press. Delaying Social Security reform will force policymakers to put greater burden on fewer people, reduce the accumulation of interest in the Trust Fund, make cuts to real benefits harder to avoid, and give workers less time to plan and adjust.

The Sentinel's editorial board also argues that Congress should consider adopting the chained CPI, which was included in President Obama's FY2014 budget request and the Simpson-Bowles and Domenici-Rivlin plans. As we have written before, the chained CPI is a more accurate measure of inflation, and it could help preserve Social Security for future generations while also protecting benefits for vulnerable seniors. But any proposal to avoid insolvency over the long term must also include broader revenue and benefit reforms. You can try your hand at fixing Social Security using our interactive Reformer tool.

This is a critical moment. Our hope is that Congress returns from August recess with a newfound ambition to solve these problems once and for all.