WASHINGTON -- With today's release of the annual Social Security and Medicare Trustees' Reports again showing that the nation’s two largest programs are on a troubled fiscal path, The Concord Coalition urged politicians to work together on reforms of both programs aimed at producing a sustainable future. Reform efforts will need to recognize the underlying structural factors contributing to their unsustainability -- demographic changes and escalating health care costs.
“Today’s report documents a failure of generational stewardship. We should not be content that Social Security and Medicare are affordable for today’s beneficiaries when they are not sustainable for future generations. This is particularly relevant now, when health care reform is high on the political agenda. Today’s report is a timely reminder that cost control must be a vital part of any reform plan that Congress takes up this year. It is a matter of arithmetic, not ideology. Absent reform, Medicare costs will skyrocket far beyond what can be reasonably paid for and the longer we delay in making hard choices the more dire the situation will become,” said Robert L. Bixby, Executive Director of The Concord Coalition.
Despite the attention focused on when the Social Security and Medicare Part A trust funds become “insolvent,” The Concord Coalition again warned that trust fund solvency is a poor indicator of the fiscal outlook for these programs.
“For too long, efforts to reform these programs have been minimized by references to trust-fund accounting. Use of this indicator not only misleads the public about the timing and magnitude of the looming fiscal burden, but it says nothing about these programs' impact on national savings and generational equity. The trust funds are an accounting device for keeping track of the programs' claims on general revenues. Their existence does not, therefore, ease the burden of paying future benefits. What matters fiscally and economically is their total cost. Under current projections, both programs will become increasingly reliant on general revenues as a source of funding. This in turn will put enormous pressure on all other government programs,” Bixby said.
The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy. Former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serves as president.