McConnell: Reform Can’t Wait

‘The best way to address this crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which would provide an expedited pathway for fixing the long-term challenges of entitlement spending and our unprecedented national debt’

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday regarding the Trustees Report on SS and Medicare Trust Funds:

“Yesterday afternoon, the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds released their annual report. After reviewing its findings, it’s clear that the future of Social Security and Medicare can be summed up in one word: unsustainable.

“Even before the report was issued, we knew these programs could not remain solvent for long under current conditions. Last year’s report predicted that Social Security would start paying out more than it takes in by 2017, and that it would be bankrupt about two decades after that. Last year’s report also predicted that Medicare would start paying out more than it takes in within a year, and that the trust fund for this vital program would go bankrupt about a decade after that.

“The report that was released yesterday presents a far graver scenario.

“As a result of the current recession, Social Security will start paying out more than it takes in by 2016, and it will go bankrupt four years earlier than previously expected. The situation for Medicare is even more serious. Medicare is already paying out more than it takes in, and it will be bankrupt in just eight years, two years earlier than expected, according to yesterday’s report.

“It would be irresponsible for Congress to wait any longer before addressing this problem. Some say we haven’t reached a point of crisis yet, so we can continue to kick the problem down the road until these programs actually go bankrupt. They seem to think that if the house is on fire, it’s okay to wait until the whole place burns down before you call the fire department.

“Most Americans disagree. Most people think that if a program they depend on is falling apart, or is about to fall apart, then their elected representatives in Washington have an obligation to tell them about it, and to do something. The time to act is now, before these programs go bankrupt — not after.

“The warning signs about Social Security and Medicare have been around us for years, and the problems with these programs are also at the core of the current record levels of government spending and debt. At the moment, programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as the interest we pay on the national debt, consume nearly seven out of 10 dollars the federal government spends. Soon, we’ll have little money left for anything else, including vital priorities like defense, health care, transportation, and programs that fuel job creation. Reform has been put off for too long.

“Take Medicare reform efforts, for example.

“By law, the President is required to submit legislation to lower Medicare spending levels if the cash flow of this program falls below a certain level. So last year, when Medicare cash flow fell below that level, the President submitted legislation to lower spending. Unfortunately, this legislation did not move forward in the Congress.

“Real leadership on entitlement reform will require action from both parties. And yesterday’s report is the wakeup call. Reform is no longer just a good idea — it’s absolutely necessary. It’s the only way to restore these programs to fiscal health, and to get at the root of our larger fiscal problems. Unless we act now, these programs will no longer be sustainable and spending and debt will continue to spiral out of control.

“The good news is that a solution exists. As I’ve said many times before, the best way to address this crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which would provide an expedited pathway for fixing the long-term challenges of entitlement spending and our unprecedented national debt, challenges that the Democrat Budget and their economic policies of the past few months ignore.

“There has never been a better time to adopt this sensible, bipartisan proposal. This week, we learned that the deficit for the current fiscal year will be nearly $90 billion higher than previously estimated — bringing the deficit to more $1.8 trillion. This is nearly four times higher than the record set last year. It also means that this year’s deficit is higher than those of the past five years combined.

“The danger of all this debt is simple — higher inflation that threatens to derail an economic recovery, and trillions in debt that our children and grandchildren will have to repay to countries like China and nations in the Middle East.

“Secretary Geithner said yesterday that when it comes to reforming Social Security, the administration will build a bipartisan consensus to ensure Social Security remains solvent. We welcome this statement, and I urge the administration to support the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which is the best way to address entitlement spending and our unprecedented national debt. After yesterday’s report, it’s clear that we can’t wait any longer to address this crisis.

“Americans have relied on programs like Medicare and Social Security for decades. It would be dishonest and unfair not to tell them the truth about these programs — that they are near collapse and that urgent reform is needed to bring them back to sustainability. More than 800,000 Kentuckians receive Social Security benefits, and nearly that many are enrolled in Medicare. They deserve our honesty. And they deserve action from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. We need to make sure programs like Social Security and Medicare remain viable for them, and for their children and grandchildren.”