Careening toward catastrophe

Remember the groundswell of public outrage last month about taxes? "Tea party" protests crisscrossed the whole country.

So where's the outrage over the looming crisis surrounding Social Security and Medicare?

Trustees of those two bloated entitlement programs updated America on their status last week, and the latest projections are even worse that had been previously predicted.

Starting in 2016 -- a year earlier than projected -- Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes. In 2037, the huge trust fund will be depleted -- that's four years sooner than was expected.

And Medicare? The hospital expenses program will pay out more in benefits than it collects this year, and is expected to be insolvent by 2017.

This is huge -- a huge disaster.

Last year, the first 3.2 million baby boomers starting drawing Social Security; over the next 20 years, 80 million more will be eligible for government-sponsored retirement benefits.

It's estimated that, by the year 2030, two U.S. workers will be forking over payroll taxes for each U.S. retiree. In 1945, 42 workers contributed to each retiree.

And the unfunded liability for these entitlements are climbing annually by the trillions.

The ballooning cost of retirement and health care is being unfairly pushed off on our children and grandchildren.

Quote: "The squeeze on the federal budget will begin as the baby boom generation starts to retire. Actions taken today can ease both those pressures and the pain of future actions."

That's from David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office.

And that quote is from 2003 .

The government has known about this encroaching calamity even for years before that -- and next to nothing has been done.

Economists sounded similar calls of alarm in 2005, and were greeted by this response from now-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"(T)he so-called Social Security crisis exists in only one place: the minds of the Republicans." According to Reid's tea leaves, "Social Security continues to be strong and remains on solid ground for decades to come."

What a stunning lack of prescience. That quote could rank up there with the words from renowned economist John Maynard Keynes: "We will not have any more crashes in our time." He said that two years before the stock market crash that preceded the Great Depression.

Before you write off these warnings of danger to partisan finger-pointing, know that Walker was a Clinton appointee. And to Walker's credit, he spent the last part of his term as comptroller general, under a Republican president, traveling the country giving presentations about the unsustainability of America's fiscal habits.

The same formula that helped bring down the Roman Empire, Walker has said, is shaping up to bring down America.

The longer action is put off, the more severe -- and costly -- the solution becomes.

And the solution certainly won't be arrived at through the drunken-sailor spending slated for the federal government's foreseeable future.

Our lawmakers should not allow this country to careen into disastrous insolvency.

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Fri, 12/09/2016 - 23:31

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