Recent estimates by non-partisan actuaries indicate that Medicare will be bankrupt in 2024, and Social Security will only be able to meet 80% of its obligations after 2033. The dire warnings about Social Security come even though it currently carries a trust fund valued at over 2.5 trillion dollars. Many people on the right use these facts to say that we need to address the problem now by raising the eligibility age or cutting benefits or even changing the nature of these “so-called” entitlements. They claim that they are trying to save these programs and we can no longer kick the can down the road.
I say, “Kick the can!” Alan Simpson, of the famous Simpson-Bowles commission, which didn’t actually report out a plan, despite what the Beltway would have you believe, is now promoting a website called “thecankicksback.” It really doesn’t. I do not care that Medicare’s drop dead date is 12 years away. Over the last 40 years, which I might add is almost the entirety of the life of Medicare, the drop dead date has been 12 years away.
So, we have 20 years before Social Security has troubles and only 12 before it happens to Medicare, and every day we delay makes it more expensive to fix, right? Wrong! It only gets more expensive to fix if the date gets closer. Say that five years from now, the drop dead date for Medicare turns out to be 12 years away, aren’t we in the same boat then? Is the situation more dire? I think not.
It is true that the problem looms large today because Baby Boomers are beginning to retire. This is putting increased strain on these safety-net programs. However, look at the bright side, the sooner they retire, the sooner they die off and we will be beyond the Boomer BurdenTM. Before I get e-mails, the remark about boomers dying was just snark, I’m first year post-boomer.
The point I’m making is that there are a whole bunch of Very Serious People out there claiming that our current debt of 16 Trillion dollars combined with the obligations of Social Security and Medicare portend a coming budget crisis. They also claim that we are better off dealing with it today, and the only solution is to cut those safety net programs. They ignore the fact that over the past 30 years we’ve cut taxes so much that we’ve driven Federal tax revenues to lows not seen since the Great Depression, and that during that time the debt ballooned from just under $1 Trillion to it’s current $16 Trillion.
They ignore the fact that the Affordable Care Act’s (that's Obamacare to you and me) projected 10 year savings in Medicare was $500 Billion in 2010 and $716 Billion in 2012, and who knows what it’s savings will look like in 2014. They ignore the fact that the deal to save Social Security brokered by House Speaker Tip O’Neill and St. Ron wanted the cap on payroll taxes to capture 90% of income which would put it at approximately $170,000 and not the current cap around $110,000. And they ignore the fact that simply fixing that one quirk would make Social Security solvent for an additional 50 years.
Wikipedia describes the game of “Kick the Can” as one where someone is designated as “It,” and he counts while everyone else hides. He then goes about finding and capturing everyone else. The captured wait in “jail” as he goes after others. The others can free the captured by kicking the can. The 1% are “It.” They’ve captured a lot of us over the past 30 years. In 2009, they received 93% of wealth created in the U.S. It was such torture to them to pay an additional 4.6% on that 93%. And they want more- cuts to the safety net. Each time we kick the can, we free some of the 99%.
Kick the Goddam Can!