And now we're out of money.
The politicians made promises of future benefits that would be paid for by taking future money from future people while they spent current money--that should've been saved for future benefits--on whatever other current spending priorities they had at the time.
The problem is that the "future" is now and there's no money set aside to pay benefits.
How do we know there's no money set aside for Social Security? Because, facing the possibility that the government couldn't borrow more money, President Obama threatened to not send out Social Security checks during the debt ceiling debate.
But if there's a Social Security Trust Fund with trillions of dollars sitting in it, why would we have to borrow money to send money to Social Security recipients? Couldn't we just dip into the trust fund for the money? Isn't that what the trust fund is for?
The reason we can't is because there isn't a trust fund. And there isn't any money. The politicians have been spending the money as fast as it came in for decades and there's nothing there.
Even though it is claimed that Social Security will be insolvent in 2036, the truth is that it's insolvent now. As we've now witnessed in the debt ceiling debate, the only way to pay Social Security benefits is for the government to borrow more money. Why? Because the "surplus" Social Security money was already spent on other things over the decades.
Had politicians been even somewhat responsible, the money that was collected on behalf of these programs over the decades would be in their respective trust funds. If that were the case, Social Security would be solvent until about 2036 and we could use the trust fund to pay Social Security benefits now regardless of whether or not the government can borrow money.
Unfortunately, not only did politicians make promises they couldn't keep with other people's future money, they immediately spent every dime that taxpayers entrusted to them for their future benefits. The money that should have been saved for future Social Security benefits was spent on stimulus, roads and bridges, the EPA, defense, the myth of the Clinton surplus, and every other thing on which government has spent money over the decades.
Americans have been conned for decades. Every dollar that Americans have paid into Social Security has already been spent and America is bankrupt.
And this is true of the other entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, too. None of these programs have any money and there are no trust funds. Just promises from politicians--most of whom have long since retired. The current set of politicians inherited most of these bankrupt systems from their predecessors, and those predecessors inherited it from theirs.
Having said that, today's politicians have a choice: They can ignore the problem and carry on the scam for as long as they can, like their predecessors. Or they can recognize and confront reality, acknowledge it, and tell America the truth.
And the truth is that our entitlement programs are all bankrupt. There is no money. O
nly a fundamental restructuring of the programs can provide a permanent solution. Without fundamentally changing these programs, they're bankrupt and it's only a matter of time before they collapse.
It's time to admit we have a problem. And it's also time we start instituting the fiscal conservative policies that will fix these problems.