Social Security reform: It ain’t gonna be easy

Are entitlements in trouble? Yes, say 77 percent. Should we raise taxes to pay for them? No, say 56 percent. Should we trim benefits? No, say 66 percent. So how are we gonna fix this?

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    Stella and Hank Wehrly discuss Social Security at a Boca Raton, Fla., retirement community Oct. 11, after hearing that there will be no cost of living adjustment to their benefits until at least 2012. Seniors said they were prepared to cut back on everything from food to charitable donations to whiskey.
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A new Gallup poll tells us that:

More than three in four Americans believe the cost of the government’s major entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, will create major economic problems for the U.S. in the next 25 years if no changes are made to them. At the same time, Americans do not provide a mandate for raising taxes or cutting benefits to address the situation.

If you want to take a “glass half full” view, however, the poll also shows (emphasis added):

62% do support one approach or the other. Specifically, 12% favor both options, 30% favor a tax increase but not benefit cuts, and 20% favor benefit cuts but not a tax increase. Still, the data show that there is little consensus on how to address a problem most Americans see looming, and more than one-third of Americans (35%) oppose both options.

In other words, if we’re to come to any agreement on how to improve the federal budget outlook (not just agreement that there’s a problem with it), we’re going to have to do the “mutual sacrifice” kind of compromising, not the “rewards all around” kind we’ve been practicing over the past decade.

Obviously that’s a hard sell any time, but it is pretty much impossible in an election year.

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