Expert Comment: Medicare and Social Security Face Failure

March 26, 2008
Jeff Emanuel

(Chicago, Illinois - March 26, 2008) On Tuesday, trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds warned Medicare will run out of money by 2019, and Social Security by 2041.

In a presidential election year, Congress is unlikely to address the issue, even as every sector of the American public expresses concern.

Experts contacted by The Heartland Institute offered the following comments. You may quote from this statement or contact the experts directly at the phone numbers and email addresses provided below.

"The combined debt--long-term--of Medicare and Social Security totals $42.9 trillion. Critics say that Congress is doing nothing. But that's not true: by continuing policy as it is today Congress is committed to imposing a radical level of taxation that dwarfs anything ordinary Americans can even begin to imagine.

"Medicare and Social Security are not issues for old folks. They comprise a financial life and death issue for twenty-somethings."

Bob Moffit

Director, Center for Health Policy Studies

The Heritage Foundation


"On Social Security: It's fascinating to note that the 75-year deficit actually declined by over 12 percent. That was almost entirely due to the beneficial effect of young, undocumented immigrants paying into a system they will never draw benefits from.

"On Medicare: While the overall 75-year deficit nudged upward by 'only' $2 trillion, the prescription drug benefit's (Part D) deficit declined by $500 billion. This is due to robust private sector competition in Part D--a great effect that the rest of Medicare could benefit from."

Ryan Ellis

Tax Policy Director

Americans for Tax Reform


"If a private financial institution were as reckless with its fiduciary responsibility as Congress has been with Social Security and Medicare, there would be howls of indignation, demands for regulation, and calls for the resignation and prosecution of those responsible."
Arnold Kling


Cato Institute


"This is the bitter fruit of the 'in the long run, we're all dead' philosophy of government: crank up long-term programs based on short-term political promises, and let future generations worry when the big bills come due.

"Those who questioned Social Security and Medicare at their inceptions were dismissed as stingy and heartless. They look like prophets and geniuses now.

"The lesson here is to never judge a government program simply by what it might do for a few at the moment. When weighed against long-term consequences, government can be just like the booze that makes you feel great until the hangover."

Lawrence W. Reed


Mackinac Center for Public Policy


"On Good Friday (when most people were off, including most reporters) the Bush administration announced that the following Tuesday during spring break (when Congress was in recess and everyone's attention was focused elsewhere) the Social Security/Medicare trustees' annual reports would be released.

"Apparently someone isn't eager for you to pay close attention to this year's reports. The federal government has promised more that $100 trillion in benefits over and above expected taxes and premium payments. These calculations ignore the existence of the trust fund, estimated at a little more than $2 trillion."

John Goodman


National Center for Policy Analysis


"While Americans think the dollar is weak now, they should consider booking trips to Europe soon because the impending financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare will not only harm this country's economic prospects, but will cause the dollar's value to drop further and faster than ever unless the size of these programs is dramatically reduced, and market-based reforms are enacted.

Paul Gessing


Rio Grande Foundation


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