It remains to be seen how much honesty Americans want, or will vote for. But Rick Perry gives no indication that he’s going to stop pointing out that Social Security is broken—and broke.
Governor Perry’s editorial in today’s USA Today:
The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America’s goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term. But Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year-old program.
As I said at the Reagan Library recently, Social Security benefits for current recipients and those nearing retirement must be protected. For younger workers, we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable.
These are the hard facts: Social Security’s unfunded liability is calculated in the trillions of dollars. Last year, annual Social Security outlays exceeded annual revenues for the first time since 1983. The Congressional Budget Office projects that outlays will be roughly 5% greater than revenues over the next five years, worsening as more and more Baby Boomers retire.
By 2037, retirees will only get roughly 76 cents back for every dollar that is put into Social Security unless reforms are implemented. Imagine how long a traditional retirement or investment plan could survive if it projected investors would lose 24% of their money?
I am going to be honest with the American people. Our elected leaders must have the strength to speak frankly about entitlement reform if we are to right our nation’s financial course and get the USA working again.
For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security and make it financially viable for generations to come.
Americans must come together and agree to address the problems so today’s beneficiaries and tomorrow’s retirees really can count on Social Security for the long haul.
We must have a frank, honest national conversation about fixing Social Security to protect benefits for those at or near retirement while keeping faith with younger generations, who are being asked to pay.
Which reminds us of this dusty old Krugman column, which blew into my inbox this morning:
Inside the Beltway, doomsaying about Social Security — declaring that the program as we know it can’t survive the onslaught of retiring baby boomers — is regarded as a sort of badge of seriousness, a way of showing how statesmanlike and tough-minded you are.
Consider, for example, this exchange about Social Security between Chris Matthews of MSNBC and Tim Russert of NBC, on a recent edition of Mr. Matthews’s program “Hardball.”
Mr. Russert: “Everyone knows Social Security, as it’s constructed, is not going to be in the same place it’s going to be for the next generation, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives.”
Mr. Matthews: “It’s a bad Ponzi scheme, at this point.”
Mr. Russert: “Yes.”
(We’ll ignore the rest, as it’s just the former Enron advisor Krugman, doing the “look at me!” dance.)
The notion of restructuring Social Security so that it can weather the demographic challenges ahead, is not a radical one at all, and it would be great if we could stop pretending that it was.