“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

–John F. Kennedy

“We are increasingly concerned about inaction on the financial challenges facing the Social Security and Medicare programs. The longer we wait to address these challenges, the more limited will be the options available, the greater will be the required adjustments, and the more severe the potential detrimental economic impact on our nation.”

–2007 Trustees Report

Today, Social Security celebrates its 73rd birthday. While the program can look back on 73 years of providing retirement security for Americans and can claim with justifiable pride to have reduced poverty among older workers, its future is clouded.

In 2020, a little more than 12 years from now, today’s $80 billion annual Social Security cash surplus will turn into a $75 billion annual deficit — a $150 billion change. From 2017 on, Social Security will require large and growing amounts of general revenue money in order to pay all of its promised benefits. Even though this money will technically come from cashing in the special-issue bonds in the trust fund, the money to repay them will come from other tax collections or borrowing. Moreover, the billions that go to Social Security each year will make it harder to find money for other government programs.

The debate about whether Social Security faces a problem and needs to be fixed is over. Now is the time to focus on solutions.