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Social Security

Posted: January 25, 2011 11:10 a.m.
Updated: January 26, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is one of the few lawmakers in Washington who’s willing to forge compromises, and that sometimes lands him in hot water with hard-right conservatives in the Palmetto State. Now, with Graham realistically saying that in order to stem the horrific budget deficits the country is running that we must look at the possibility of changing the Social Security retirement age, he’s also catching heat from the left.

Few people in Washington are willing to discuss the fact that in order to meaningfully reduce the long-term debt, something’s going to have to be done about entitlement programs, chief among them Social Security. When the Deficit Reduction Commission proposed raising Social Security ages over a period of 75 years, there was immediate reaction, though that gives lawmakers perfect political cover as it doesn’t affect anybody who’s even close to retirement age.

When Social Security was instituted in 1935, life expectancy in this country was less than 62 years. It is now 78 years. Nobody could have envisioned such a change, and there is no way a system that was set up to deal with existing actuarial tables that long ago can sustain itself as payments are stretched over longer and longer periods. People are healthier now into older age and can work longer. There is not a single rational argument against starting a gradual increase in eligibility age that would be phased in far down the road, and by that time, average life expectancy will almost certainly have increased by a few more years.

Leftist organizations and politicians shriek every time a change is proposed in entitlement programs. But the country is on a path to fiscal destruction unless something is done. Graham is willing to take a look at restoring some amount of fiscal integrity to the process; for that he should be praised, not condemned.

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