Last week saw the publication of the annual Social Security and Medicare trustees’ reports, along with an accompanying summary. The occasion was bittersweet for me, these being the last such reports in which I participated as a public trustee on the basis of my term ending last autumn. It has been a high honor to serve, largely because of the privilege of working alongside the other trustees – most especially my remarkable fellow public trustee Robert Reischauer – as well as the many dedicated, knowledgeable staff who strive so hard to put together these vital annual reports.
This column summarizes key information from this year’s Social Security report. A follow-up companion piece will do the same for the Medicare report.
Social Security finances are on an unsustainable trajectory requiring legislated corrections as soon as they can be enacted. The essential problem is that the program’s costs are growing faster than its tax base. This is inherently unsustainable and requires correction. The sooner the pace of cost growth can be slowed to a sustainable rate the better, both in terms of equity across generations, and to fix the problem before it becomes intractably large.