Congress can finally reform Social Security. In fact, there's no choice.
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Every time Republicans talk about addressing the impending disaster of Social Security, as its reserves dry up, Democrats characterize their attempts to protect and preserve Social Security as attempts to cut benefits. If they took the same tack in a medical situation, they might say your oncologist is recommending cutting you open and removing part of your body (namely, a cancerous tumor).

Back in 2005, when President George W. Bush broached the subject of Social Security reform, congressional Democrats, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal It's time for Republicans to play offense while Democrats are weak This week: Senate races toward ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (D-N.Y.), rallied against any notion of sustainable reform at a statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. “Democrats are unified, Democrats are ready for this fight,” Leader Pelosi declared at the time.

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When Congress passed the Social Security Act, a major part of FDR’s so-called “New Deal,” an actuary from Travelers Insurance Company, W.R. Williamson, warned the House Ways and Means Committee that it was passing on a heavy burden to future generations.

 

“You would not suggest that we pass the buck on to 1965 or 1980, or even think about doing it, because there will be 22 Congresses between now and then that could upset the apple cart,” Rep. Fred Vinson (D-Ky.) asked the insurance actuary, according to Jim Powell’s book, FDR’s Folly.

“I think it should be well understood,” Williamson replied, “that that is exactly what is being done.”

It’s 2017, and Social Security is running out of time. If there is any hope of reforming the program in a way that protects the promises to seniors and encourages economic growth, we have to act now.

The Democrats are suffering from an inability or unwillingness to look at the cold hard facts that Social Security is on track to collapse. Social Security is facing a shortfall of as much as $11.4 trillion. Leaders on the Left want to keep up the façade that everything is going well, that any proposed changes are malevolent attacks on the elderly. They prefer to have benefits suddenly be severely curtailed in 10 to 20 years.

Republicans have earned the majority in the House, the majority in the Senate, and the White House. They should avert the crisis and take the praise for doing so.

This is a golden opportunity to prove to everyone just how painless a wise approach to saving Social Security can be.

They can drive home the point that these reforms can extend Social Security’s life beyond 2023, when the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will become depleted and pay only 89 percent of benefits and past 2035 when the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted and only pay 77 percent of benefits.

A bill like 82-year-old Rep. Sam JohnsonSam JohnsonWeek ahead: Tech awaits Trump budget Older Americans Month — slashing funds for our seniors is the wrong thing to do Ryan transfers record M to House GOP's campaign arm in March MORE’s (R-Texas) in the 114th Congress would be a good place to start in the 115th Congress.

His Social Security Reform Act offers modest reforms that would extend the longevity of the trust funds – without a tax increase. His bill would have increased payments to low-income Americans while reducing them for high-income Americans. It would gradually increase the retirement age from 67 to 69 for those born in 1960 or later.

The bill changes how benefits are calculated, offering a better way to control the growth of costs of Social Security. It ensures that low-income individuals receive cost of living adjustments. High-income earners wouldn’t see adjustments.

Social Security’s chief actuary, Stephen Goss, noted that the Social Security Reform Act would return the program to solvency. “For the 75-year (long-range) period as a whole, the current-law unfunded obligation of $11.4 trillion is replaced by a positive trust fund reserve of $0.6 trillion in present value assuming enactment of the proposal.”

All that’s needed to accomplish this worthwhile goal is political will. Members of the House and Senate should pass legislation, even using Rep. Johnson’s legislation as a starting point, to deliver for the American people and push the viability of these programs far into the future.

Adam Brandon is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks.


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