Social Security raiding comes home to roost
It was a fairly big news story this week when Treasury Secretary John Snow and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Medicare and Social Security are in bad shape.
Some of the more fiscally responsible members of Congress have been trying to point that out since the late 1970s when both parties in Congress realized they could raid Social Security for more spending money.
But tax-and-spend demagogues of that time and since have drowned out the simple questions about Social Security and Medicare solvency as senior-bashing.
Here's the bad news:
• Part A of Medicare – the hospitalization fund – will go into deficit later this year and become insolvent in 2019.
• Social Security is not going downhill as quickly, but it will go into deficit around 2018 and crash in 2042, according to current estimates.
The only way to deal with this (Surprise! Surprise!) is either with tax increases or reductions in benefits.
To bail out Social Security, the current 12.4 percent payroll tax both workers and employers pay would have to jump to 14.3 percent.
It's an election year, of course, and Democrats suddenly have dressed themselves in the flag of fiscal responsibility. They say the recently enacted prescription drug benefit that President Bush proposed is the reason.
What twaddle! If Bush's prescription drug plan did affect this situation it's a bit like blaming one smoker for a lung cancer epidemic.
Chronic deficit spending and raiding Social Security started and gained momentum during the Democrats' 30-year watch in Congress. Many Republicans were just as guilty of drunken sailor spending on pork.
Here, again, as with the the Sept. 11 commission, blame doesn't have nearly as much value as an intelligent honest plan for fixing the problem.