Washington: Social Security could be insolvent by the end of this decade because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to some new estimates, creating new pressure for Congress to fix the troubled program after decades of inaction.
The last official government projection had the program running out of money by 2035. But some outside economists are looking at the trends and moving up the date when the program starts paying out more than it takes in: Tens of millions of workers are suddenly unemployed and not paying into the government account that funds benefits for retired workers. At the same time, a flood of older Americans who’ve lost jobs are expected to start drawing benefits as soon as they’re eligible.
It’s unclear whether the new timeline is enough to force lawmakers into finally acting given that it’s been almost four decades since they last shored up the Depression-era program — and solutions like raising taxes, cutting benefits, or raising the retirement age are politically difficult.
But the current crisis is accelerating the day when Congress can no longer avoid making tough choices about the program, which covers an estimated 178 million workers and provides monthly cash benefits to more than 64 million beneficiaries, reports Politico.
“There’s going to be a real reckoning,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and has proposed raising both benefits and taxes. “This is going to get people’s attention.”
Rep. Steve Womack, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, said, “This is a train wreck that’s going to happen and you can see it coming.”