It's no secret that Congress has not been solving many problems lately - and its popularity reflects this. Some of the issues the country faces are complicated and defy easy solution. Then, there is Social Security - whose problem is understandable using rudimentary math. The simple fact is: If nothing is done to shore up Social Security's finances, the program will face a shortfall by 2031.
This problem will be noticed again next month when the Social Security Trustees release their annual report. No doubt, the report will say that the situation has gotten incrementally worse since the year before. It will say that lawmakers need to approach the looming insolvency by phasing in reforms. And after the report is released, politicians from all sides will say something must be done. Lets make sure there will be something done.
Old age has finally caught up with Social Security. It was designed when there were 16 contributors to the system for every beneficiary. By 2031, when the Social Security Trust Funds are projected to run dry, there will be only two contributors per beneficiary.These shifting demographics are seen in the program's finances: Since 2010, Social Security's payments to beneficiaries have exceeded the amount it takes in, a deficit projected to grow only larger and larger until the trust fund is exhausted.
Our Government estimates that if Congress does nothing, all of our benefits will be automatically cut by 23 percent across the board to make up for the payment deficit. Instead of this drastic cut, the Trustees last year recommended that "lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes and give workers and beneficiary time to adjust to them. "
As you could think, in this political environment such prudent advice has been met with inaction. I strongly believe that lawmakers need to look to the next generation; not the next election. Yes, the solutions will be politically painful but nothing compared to waiting. All sides need to agree on this, as chances are close to zero that any party will be willing to do this alone. As I've said before, compromise and common ground are not bad words; they define who we are and make us a stronger nation. In fact, most other major nations including Europe face similar problems, let us be this time the first once to step up the plate and address them.
A good piece of recent bipartisan legislation from Reps. John Delaney (D-MD) and Tom Cole (R-OK) looks pretty encouraging. The Social Security Commission Act of 2014 would create a bipartisan, bicameral group to find a long-term solution to strengthen Social Security.
Efforts like this should be supported if we are going to tackle issues instead of sidestep them as passing on to the next generation is no option.
Dominik Knoll is chief executive officer of the World Trade Center of New Orleans, a 1,600-member not for profit organization dedicated to promoting international business and trade in the Gulf Region. He is also a member of the Campaign to Fix the Debt in Washington DC.