Generational Equity and Social Security Financing Reform

Originally published in Journal of Retirement

Social Security’s trustees first reported program underfunding in 1992, and since then virtually every annual trustees report to Congress has urged policymakers to address the financing gap before the remaining funds are depleted. In spite of this, to date no meaningful action has been taken. The day of reckoning is drawing nearer each year.

In “Generational Equity and Social Security Financing Reform,” Sylvester J. Schieber, former chair of the Social Security Advisory Board, argues for including all generations in the necessary reforms. He points out the conflict between the desire to shield current retirees from the cost of reform and the desire to make the program more progressive:

  • The longer policymakers postpone reform, the higher will be the cost of rebalancing the system for those affected. Exempting older program participants would diminish the size of the population that will share in bearing these costs when they are ultimately imposed and would raise the cost of reforms for current workers and their children even more.
  • Failing to include today’s elderly in Social Security financing reforms would suggest that the system is rigged against younger generations.