A Political Assessment of Social Security Reform’s Headwinds - Politico
It’s been a long time coming, and now we’re within a decade of the catastrophe known as Social Security insolvency. And just to head the rumor off fast, that doesn’t mean bankruptcy for one of America’s most successful social programs and it doesn’t mean the total end of the support that keeps millions of Americans out of poverty, but it does mean a catastrophic cut in that support by way of a 23%-to-25% across the board reduction in benefits.
Politico congressional bureau chief John Burgess Everett, in a post yesterday on their website, provides a broad analysis of the competing forces dealing with–or trying to deal with–the crafting of a solution to a problem that the Social Security trustees have been warning Congress about since the 1990s. Both sides of the aisle have adamantly sworn that benefit cuts are “off the table,” but little has been seen in terms of a complete packaged solution to the looming problem. And it’s a problem that has been worsening rapidly over the past decade, especially since 2021 when all of Social Security’s incoming revenue (payroll taxes, interest on reserves, and income tax on benefits) began falling short of scheduled outlays.
The Everett post, which you can access here, summarizes many of the thought processes currently swirling in Washington, and paints a somewhat bleak picture of the road ahead. Everett notes that Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who, along with Angus King (I-Maine), is leading conversations with a Senate group focused on the issue, puts the current state of discussions this way, “There’s the policy. There’s the politics and the process. The policy is absolutely ready for primetime,” Cassidy argued. “The politics and the process is what we have to work now. We have a strong bipartisan group in the Senate, but until you get the White House and the House of Representatives … you really can’t go far.”
Meanwhile, the depletion clock is ticking, with Social Security’s reserves projected to be fully depleted by 2033, according to Congressional Budget Office projections. Stay tuned here for more reports on this vexing issue.