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Why Social Security must change now

True, it is not in as dire shape as Medicare. But this bedrock program is still a concern, and in 2010, it actually ran a deficit.

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Don’t mess with Social Security. That was the clear message of Senate majority leader Harry Reid and other Democrats when they staged a rally on Capitol Hill on Monday. But Congress must mess with it in order to save this bedrock program and help head off a looming debt crisis.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate is looking at Medicare, Medicaid, and, yes, Social Security, as federal entitlements that must be reformed in order to confront the nation’s building debt problem. House Republicans, too, say the nation’s retirement program can’t be exempt from change.

But Senator Reid is digging in his heels: “Let’s look at Social Security when it’s a problem; today it’s not a problem.” He and others point to the program’s $2.6 trillion trust fund, which is not expected to run out until 2037, at which point benefits will be reduced by 30 percent. The program is neither a debt threat today, nor a deficit buster, defenders argue.

It must be underscored that Social Security is an effective antipoverty program. Millions of Americans, especially low-income seniors, depend on these checks. The program needs to be protected.

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