By Congressman Paul Ryan
It has become a yearly drill: The Medicare and Social Security trustees sound a clear warning that, without reform, both of these programs will go bankrupt in the not-so-distant future. It has also become a yearly drill for those in Washington to respond to the alarm by hitting the snooze button.
This year's trustees' report makes clear the growing urgency of this problem -- especially with the effects of the recession -- and the severity of the repercussions should this avoidance habit continue. Highlights of the report include:
To his credit, President Obama has acknowledged the need to address these problems. But his budget actually makes the problem worse by expanding the already unsustainable growth of entitlement spending by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. The administration has also indicated it will ignore the trustees' fourth consecutive Medicare funding warning (also included in the report), passing up the special procedure the warning provides: to force Congress to take action on critical Medicare reform.
We no longer have the luxury of waiting; with each year of delay, the problem gets exponentially worse, and the likelihood grows that Congress will be forced to react with deep cuts in benefits or increases in tax or debt burdens to intolerable levels. The programs will fail to meet their obligations, and in the process will put immense burdens on the economy and the budget, crippling our ability to compete in the global marketplace and shrinking future Americans' standards of living.
We must steer a different course. If we act now, we can transform this problem into an opportunity -- to make these important programs stronger, more responsive, more resilient, more sustainable and more in line with the way our economy really works.
That is why last year I introduced comprehensive legislation called "A Roadmap for America's Future." My bill not only addresses the Medicare and Social Security crisis, but also Medicaid, health care and our overly complex, anticompetitive tax code, to ensure America can regain its footing on the path to a secure, prosperous future.
Here are its key components:
This is a real plan, with real proposals, real numbers to back them and real legislation to implement it. It is ambitious, and not everyone agrees with every aspect of it. That's fine; we must have this debate. Inaction is no longer an option.
Congressman Paul Ryan serves Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District. To contact him by phone in Washington, D.C., call (202) 225-3031. Or visit Paul Ryan at www.house.gov/ryan