What to do about social security

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By Harold Morgan

 The big lie of the 2012 campaign is that the nation’s entitlement programs need not be changed. The lie comes from the Democrats and is backed by fear mongering — the claim that Republican desire to fix entitlements — Democrats say “destroy Medicare as we know it” — would be awful rather than necessary.
The entitlement programs are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The PBS NewsHour snagged Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, a “social justice” organization, for an April 23 appearance. Altman said Social Security is “generally in good shape.” Upon hearing this, I almost rolled off the couch.
Later Altman said Social Security’s “overall cost is quite modest compared to Social Security systems all around the world.”
True, I think, and a good thing. Profligate public pension spending in a number of countries — Greece comes to mind — is just one of the reasons for Europe’s lengthy saga of financial trouble. Changes in Germany starting 10 years ago, such as raising the pension age and cutting benefits, have made that country the anchor for Euro survival.
The NewsHour topic was a new Social Security status report. The short title is “2012 OASDI Trustees Report.”
The key statement is, “The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than projected last year.”
This means that the Obama administration took a bad situation — Social Security running out of money — and made it worse.
Not to worry, says Altman. Plenty of time exists. This position is to be expected.
Doing nothing about entitlements is basically the pitch from Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Democrat who seems to have grabbed the money-raising momentum in the Albuquerque area Democratic congressional primary. On her website, Lujan Grisham uses more words and longer words than, “Do nothing,” but that is my translation.  
Eric Griego, another way-left Albuquerque Democrat seeking the congressional nomination says the same thing in shorter words: “I will fight to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from any attempts to cut and undermine them.”
Marty Chavez, the third Democrat in the race, equivocates, meaning “do nothing.”
Ben Ray Lujan, already a member of Congress, goes one better. On his website, Lujan says nothing about entitlements, a fitting stance for the state’s least impressive member of Congress.
The Obama administration’s contributions to this picture include low wage growth, which turns into less money paid into Social Security, and reducing the payroll tax, an immediate bread and circuses bribe of a few bucks more in each paycheck at the expense of disaster later.
Doing nothing is always a choice. For entitlements, doing nothing will make us Europe.
Economist Glenn Hubbard says, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, absent changes in policy, the nation will spend 10 percentage points of GDP more on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and related programs in 2058 than it does today.”
This would come on top of the Obama administration increasing the federal share of GDP to 24.3 percent this year from 20.8 percent in 2008. These figures come from the Office of Management and Budget.
Hubbard, your basic Harvard Ph.D. and dean of the Columbia Business School, chose two respected, reasonably impartial organizations as his sources. Alice Rivlin, a Democrat and Pete Domenici’s good buddy, once led both. Hubbard is an advisor to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Doing nothing, Hubbard argues, means more taxes for everyone.
Democrats also offer fear and more government. Altman, the social justice woman, has to love it. Families trying to live their lives and maybe fish at Elephant Butte Lake on Memorial Day won’t.