Social Security turns a frail 75

August 12, 2010

By Stephen Ohlemacher-Associated Press

Prospects are bleak for fixing Social Security’s financial problems as the government retirement-insurance program celebrates its 75th anniversary this week.

Many Democrats adamantly oppose any cut in benefits to reduce cost, and some won’t accept a gradual increase in the retirement age, something that was done in the last overhaul in 1983. Republicans say an increase in Social Security taxes is out of the question, even for the wealthier.

Unless Congress acts, Social Security’s combined retirement and disability trust funds are expected to run out of money in 2037. At that point, Social Security will collect enough in payroll taxes to cover about three-fourths of the benefits.

The rhetoric is creating a tough environment for President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission to come up with recommendations to improve the government’s troubled finances. Mr. Obama says everything should be on the table, and the commission’s co-chairmen – a Republican and a Democrat – have asked for civil discourse.

Not likely.

Social Security has been, is and will continue to be potentially deadly for the career of any politician who dares touch it.

While Mr. Obama’s commission was holding its latest meeting, dozens of House Democrats gathered on the steps of the Capitol to accuse Republicans of trying to wreck Social Security by creating private accounts, an idea with little support in Congress since President George W. Bush unsuccessfully tried it.

“Probably the months before an election are not the time to try to negotiate Social Security,” said John Rother, executive vice president of AARP.

The commission’s proposals are due in December, after congressional elections in November.

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