Established in 1935, the Social Security system was designed to fit a past generation that experienced a lower life expectancy than we enjoy today. As eligible beneficiaries began drawing the first Social Security payments, the system covered around 53,000 people. With advances in medicine, Americans are living longer and Social Security has grown into a program that covers 57 million people today.
The Congressional Budget Office reports that in Fiscal Year 2013, Social Security could account for nearly a quarter of all federal spending at a total of $809 billion. With a current unfunded liability of $20.5 trillion, that amounts to $148,000 per household. Fewer workers are paying into this system per retiree. If continued, the benefits scheduled to be paid will grow faster than our economy.
Combined with years of wasteful spending by decades of career politicians in Washington, the Social Security trust fund has been left in a fragile condition. All told, the trust fund will be fully exhausted by 2031 At this point, all beneficiaries receiving Social Security will experience an immediate 25 percent cut in benefits.
Millions of Americans depend on Social Security and if we are to keep our promises to them, we can no longer ignore the fiscal state of this undoubtedly important program. Continuing to push Social Security reforms into the future will only make solving the problem harder and will require more painful changes for seniors.
During my time in Congress, I have worked on proposals that would fully fix the shortfall in the Social Security program through a gradual increase in the age of full retirement and by means testing yearly earnings, while preserving those benefits for near and current retirees. These changes would only apply to younger Americans who have time to plan for the future.
Though my plan was not considered, I will remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to enact bipartisan legislation to fully fix the shortfall in the Social Security program, while preserving the system for seniors who have planned their lives around the program and implementing reforms to save the program for younger generations.