A few months ago I praised former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley for being one of the only candidates running for president (in either party) to speak substantively about America’s unsustainable entitlements.
“Haley is addressing one of the most critical issues facing the American Republic – the impending insolvency of its largest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare,” I noted back in March.
Do I trust Haley to follow through on her promises if elected? Hell no. But she’s at least raising awareness of the costs associated with our dependency economy – and initiating a discussion on how to change it.
Haley’s positioning on this issue may have forced one of her 2024 Republican rivals – Florida governor Ron DeSantis – to change his tune on Social Security, one of the entitlement behemoths dragging our nation down.
During a recent interview with Howard Kurtz on Fox News, DeSantis was grilled on his prior support for privatizing the system and raising the retirement age – two things which frankly should have been done years ago.
He was also asked whether he stood by his prior comment that the GOP was not going to “mess with Social Security.”
“When people say that we’re somehow going to cut seniors – that is totally not true,” DeSantis said. “Talking about making changes for people in their thirties or forties so that the program is viable, that’s a much different thing – and that’s something that I think there’s going to need to be discussions on.”
The conversation on Social Security begins at the 9:48 mark …
(Click to view)
The current full retirement age for Social Security is 67. For Medicare, it is 65. In addition to raising both of those ages, Haley has suggested limiting or cutting Social Security and Medicaid benefits for wealthy Americans, saying “many of them will tell you they don’t even want it.”
According to the latest trustee reports, Social Security and Medicare have $78 trillion worth of long-term unfunded liabilities. That’s right … $78 trillion.
That is definitional unsustainability, people. Mainstream media perpetuate the myth that Social Security and Medicare are backed by multi-trillion dollar trust funds – although they acknowledge these balances are shrinking.
The truth is actually much harsher than just a dwindling stack of IOUs …
“Any payroll tax revenues collected in the past were not invested nor saved to pay for future Medicare and Social Security obligations,” noted Romina Boccia, director of budget and entitlements at the Cato Institute. “The money was spent immediately to finance other government objectives. There’s no trust fund to draw down, only a financial ledger to borrow against.”
“This inconvenient truth inevitably causes consternation among U.S. seniors, who’ve been told that they paid for their Medicare and Social Security benefits,” Boccia continued.
Cato’s director of health policy Michael Cannon put it more bluntly years ago in a column for National Review.
“The whole idea of the Social Security and Medicare ‘trust funds’ is a lie,” he wrote. “An institutionalized, ritualized lie that the U.S. government tells the American people. One perpetuated by both political parties, as well as others with an interest in hiding the reality of these programs’ unfunded liabilities. One that many journalists uncritically repeat.”
The numbers confronting our country (or at least its taxpayers) are positively jarring. According to the latest data, Medicare doled out $1.16 trillion in 2022 - a figure projected to more than double to $2.4 trillion annually by 2033. Social Security spent $1.07 trillion in 2022 but is projected to nearly double to $2.12 trillion annually by 2033.
These increases will place an unbearable strain on the system - sucking nearly $29 trillion in total from taxpayers on top of the soaring non-entitlement profligacy emanating from Washington, D.C. That is a tidal wave of red ink, people ... coming at a time when our nation is already a staggering $32.6 trillion in the hole.
The irony? All the politicians who are too afraid to speak the truth about these programs - including former president Donald Trump - are sealing the fate of the seniors who rely on them.
"Medicare and Social Security are the largest and most popular federal government programs," Boccia noted. "They are also imposing huge financial and economic burdens on American workers and taxpayers for as long as Congress fails to stop their excessive spending growth. Alternatively, if Congress does nothing, even the most vulnerable Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries would see their benefits drastically cut within the next ten years."
"Failure to act soon will hurt the most vulnerable workers and seniors the most," she added.
Credit to DeSantis for belatedly acknowledging the need for "discussions" on curbing the unsustainable expansion of these programs - and credit to Haley for pushing him on the issue. At some point, though, Republicans and Democrats in Washington have got to stop talking and start acting ... before it's too late.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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