Social Security's recent announcement serves as a timely reminder that its financial problems can't continue to be ignored.
Social Security recipients who've complained for the past two years about not getting an increase in benefits will have grounds for further complaint even though they're scheduled to get an average monthly raise of about $40 starting in January.
Their Social Security income will go up 3.6 percent as part of an inflation adjustment but, at the same time, recipients will face higher premiums for Medicare Part B coverage. Medicare is scheduled to announce the specifics behind the premium increases next week.
Social Security is a massive program, covering one in five U.S. residents. Monthly payments average $1,082 a month, and they represent a financial safety net for many who would otherwise be left destitute.
Social Security recipients received no cost-of-living increases in 2010 and 2011 because inflation was not high enough to justify an increase.
But that changes in 2011, as fuel and food prices increased.
The size and importance of Social Security and Medicare serve as another reminder of just how crucial it is to keep the programs operating on a sound financial basis. Unfortunately, both programs are under the gun financially and, according to long-range projections, are not sustainable without changes in policy.
So far at least, President Obama and the Congress have been reluctant to address these problems in a substantive way, fearing political blow-back. But problems can be ignored for only so long before they become unavoidable and unmanageable.