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The pressing need to reform entitlements

November 28, 2013
Douglas Schoen , Maui Weekly

After 16 days of political brinkmanship, lawmakers passed a temporary funding plan that raised the debt ceiling and reopened the federal government.

But now, the nation is just barreling toward a new set of deadlines--lawmakers have until Jan. 15 to deal with the budget and Feb. 7 to deal with the debt ceiling. Until Congress sets the country on stable financial footing for the long term, we're bound to play this game over and over again.

As lawmakers begin negotiations, the conversation must start with tax and entitlement reform. This begins with Medicare and Social Security, as they're the most pressing challenges facing our country.

At its current cost trajectory, the Medicare trust fund will run out of money by 2024. Social Security's trust fund will be exhausted by 2033. And by 2022, these two programs could account for well over half of federal spending. Left unabated, this rapid cost growth will endanger the health and security of America's seniors. Legislative inactivity effectively puts our country's most vulnerable in serious danger.

One of the most promising ideas gathering serious bipartisan interest is the transition to a "chained CPI" methodology for calculating Social Security's cost-of-living adjustments. This fix was designed by independent, nonpartisan experts to make the program's calculations more accurately reflect changes in the cost-of-living.

There's also growing support for expanding "means testing," a commonsense reform that would ensure that Medicare and Social Security funds go to those Americans who actually need them. Currently, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing to many people who are outright wealthy. [See part two of this letter in next week's issue.]

Douglas Schoen

Via email

 
 

 

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