This country can't keep ignoring the financial problems surrounding Social Security. Or can it?
It's hard to imagine that there are people who do not recognize that Social Security, the much venerated safety net retirement and insurance program, faces serious financial challenges.
The numbers are indisputable, prompting Chuck Blahous, one of the public trustees who oversees the program, to describe its problems as "somewhere between critical and too late to deal with it."
There are too many people retiring and too much money being paid out while too few are entering the work force and paying into the system.
For decades Social Security ran surpluses, meaning it brought in far more money than it paid out, that were ostensibly deposited in the Social Security Trust Fund. But the money was spent by the federal government and replaced by U.S. Treasury obligations. Sure, the treasury bonds can be redeemed, but the money repaid to Social Security by the U.S. Treasury is borrowed.
This year, Social Security is expected to run a deficit of $166 billion, and the borrowing needed to make up the difference between the money collected and the money paid out will add to the trillion-dollar-plus federal deficits.
What is Congress to do to address this undeniable financial problem? There are many options, but most involve people collecting less money from Social Security or working longer to qualify. Voters don't like that, so President Obama and members of Congress have been not just reluctant to act, but also reluctant to acknowledge the need to act.
The depth of the problem has prompted the Associated Press to produce a series of articles about the issues surrounding Social Security, and The News-Gazette has been running them.
The articles are a blinding glimpse of the obvious, not because they are not thorough but because there's nothing really new here for people who have followed this issue.
What's needed now is action. The longer it's delayed, the more serious the problem becomes.
Future installments of the AP series will be published Aug. 20 and 27.