Columnist Robert Samuelson goes where politicians fear to tread. The solution to our national debt problem is obvious -- entitlements for baby boomers have to be cut:
Yet, neither political party seems interested in reducing benefits for baby boomers. Doing so, it's argued, would be "unfair" to people who had planned retirements based on existing programs. Well, yes, it would be unfair. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a worse time for cuts. Unemployment is horrendous; eroding home values and retirement accounts have depleted the elderly's wealth. Only 19 percent of present retirees are "very confident" of having enough money to live "comfortably," down from 41 percent in 2007, reports the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
But not making cuts would also be unfair to younger generations and the nation's future. We have a fairness dilemma: Having avoided these problems for decades, we must now be unfair to someone. To admit this is to demolish the moral case for leaving baby boomers alone. Baby boomers - I'm on the leading edge - and their promised benefits are the problem. If they're off-limits, the problem is being evaded. Together, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid represent two-fifths of federal spending, double defense's share.
The question everyone wants to duck, he says, is "how much the government should subsidize Americans for the last 20 to 20 years of their lives," since Social Security and Medicare have evolved from "an old-age safety net" to a "middle-age retirement system."