Social Security benefits are predicted to be depleted by 2034. Thereafter, the program is projected to pay out only 75% of promised benefits. How did we come to this state of affairs, after being “promised” by the government for over eighty years that Social Security will always be there for us?
Partly because the “population wave” is cresting: there are roughly 10,000 baby boomers who turn 65 every day. And since 2010, Social Security has been running a cash-flow deficit. But really, the underlying cause (as is common with fiscal issues facing our country) is government spending. In this case, the government has spent down the financial margin of the Social Security system by “diverting” the funds to non-retirement activities. (They call it borrowing, but no one’s fooled. They’re basically using it to buy votes through entitlements. It’s analogous to using the savings you’ve put aside for your child’s education so you can treat your important clients to a spendy night on the town in hopes of garnering future favors.)
First, Congress must no longer be permitted to use Social Security funds for any purpose other than paying Social Security benefits. If they want to spend money for other uses, they have to raise it elsewhere or forgo the spending, exactly as families manage their grocery budget.
Then, once the funds have been secured, the fundamental way to build up Social Security funds is, of course, to have more workers paying into the system. In 1942, the worker-to-beneficiary ratio was 42 to one, but in 2015 it was 2.8 to one [Heritage]. New jobs—especially for younger workers—add to the SSI tax base and address deficit reduction… a win-win situation. Job creation is tied directly back to another key issue - ending the over-regulation which has stifled job creation for decades. Once we get the nanny state to cut the apron strings and return us to at least a somewhat free-market economy, we’ll likely see the sort of ingenuity and financial boom we saw in the post-war decades.
Because Social Security is the largest of the three major entitlement programs, changes should be incremental and enacted as small experiments rather than one all-encompassing bill. Solutions that could be tested include: eliminating rules that qualify individuals for SSDI based on non-medical factors, raising the enrollment age, and partial privatization [Heritage].
Congress should boost the maximum contributions people can make to Health Savings Accounts, so that Americans can better afford medical expenses incurred in old age. Over the long term Congress should shift away from Social Security to a fully funded system based on real savings.
[Heritage] The Heritage Foundation, Solutions 2018, The Policy Briefing Book: Social Security, https://solutions.heritage.org/ensuring-opportunity-for-all/social-security/