STUMP » Articles » Federal Entitlements: Ghosts of Promises Past and Benefits Yet-to-be-Paid » 20 December 2017, 13:53

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Federal Entitlements: Ghosts of Promises Past and Benefits Yet-to-be-Paid  


20 December 2017, 13:53

Going with the Star Wars theme that all the kids are wild about….

So, there are unfunded liabilities, and there are unfunded liabilities. Let’s see how they break it out:

I have no quibble with their particular numbers. But both Medicare & Social Security aren’t exactly promises.

Not like the $7.2 trillion in benefits promised to federal employees, like servicemembers and Congresspeople.

My point is that Medicare & Social Security benefits can be changed at any point and there would be no legal or Constitutional issues surrounding them. They can change the benefits for current or future retirees.

To be sure, one can assume that no changes will be made to either and total up how much that would be worth, in current dollars, assuming all sorts of trends. It’s bad enough to try to do that for public pensions, but when it comes to something like medical services, it becomes iffier.

But, as I said, let me not quibble with the specific numbers. Let’s assume that >$80 trillion is the number for Social Security and Medicare promises.

What’s the current U.S. debt? The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It says that the debt is over $20.5 trillion (which does include $5.6 trillion which I assume is the Social Security (etc.) Trust Fund.)

So $80 trillion is quite a bit more.

Does that sound like something supportable? Something is going to need to be done at some point… is 2018 that point?


Don Surber: Leave Social Security alone:

House Speaker Paul Ryan plans to leave Congress next year. On his way out the door, he plans to destroy the Republican Party. From Politico:

“The speaker has since gone public with this aspiration, suggesting that 2018 should be the year Washington finally tackles what he sees as the systemic problems with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

No, just no.

Social Security is the Third Rail of American politics.

Do not touch.

Karl Rove had the party stand in a bucket of water in 2005 on the top step of a creaking ladder and touch it.

Democrats took over Congress the next year and birthed Obamacare in 2010. Thus his social safety net reform resulted in an even bigger and more expensive mess.

Ryan said he’d repeal and replace Obamacare.

We’re waiting.

I agree with Surber on this — these three items do need fixing, but given how badly they’ve whiffed on Obamacare, which should have been EASY to get rid of, they should just shy away from that crap.

While I said earlier that there would be no legal issues with making immediate changes to these programs, there would be huge political problems… and it seems to me that the Congressional Republicans need to deal with the stuff they PROMISED they would deal with (and haven’t yet).

I mean, if they’re tired of being in office, if they just lied about these promises (shocker), I prefer they just resign instead of doing this crap.


I don’t have much in the way of recommendations for either Medicaid or Medicare, because that is really complicated.

I can think of all sorts of “fixes” for Social Security.

But hey, I don’t need to – the American Academy of Actuaries has already done it!

This has got to be one of the most boring “games” out there, but here ya go:

Removing the Social Security payroll cap and not increasing benefits for those over the cap would get us basically 90% there.

That’s what I believe the Democrats want to do… so make them own it. Heck, remove the cap and reduce benefits for high earners:

Problem solved.

Mind you, I don’t think that is what any Republicans would vote for.

[Also, I specifically would be harmed by this. I’m not really interested in this solution… but it’s a solution I expect.]

So, again, wait for Democrats be in charge and let them pass that. In fact, I found only a few proposals in the choices that Republicans would likely go for… again, I would just pass on the Social Security reform at this point.

First, get the other stuff done. If you can get that done credibly, perhaps there’s some political capital to be used on Social Security or Medicare.

Related Posts
Connecticut Continuing: Is There a Budget Yet?
Federal Tax Avoidance Follies: A Splash of Reality
Friday Trumpery: No Exemptions for State-Run "Private" Pensions [UPDATED]