Social Security is not the key fiscal problem facing the nation. Payments to its beneficiaries amount to 5 percent of the economy now; by 2050, they're projected to rise to about 6 percent. Over the same period, federal health care costs will increase six times as much.
Nevertheless, Social Security does face an actuarial deficit. Current projections suggest that, after 2037, benefits would need to be reduced by more than 20 percent to match revenue. Measured over the next 75 years, the deficit in Social Security is expected to amount to 0.7 percent of the economy — not a huge amount, but a deficit nonetheless.
So it would be desirable to put the system on sounder financial footing. And that is precisely what the co-chairmen of President Obama's bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt have bravely proposed to do. It's too bad their proposal has been greeted with so much criticism, especially from progressives — who really should look at it as an opportunity to fix Social Security without privatizing it. Although the plan leans too much on future benefit reductions and not enough on revenue increases, it still offers a good starting point for reform.