Entitled to What?
Essay by ROGER LOWENSTEIN
Virtually unnoticed during the primary season, the baby boom generation turned 62 this year and began to draw Social Security benefits. This heralded a milestone in America’s aging, and depending on which of the candidates you ask, it spells a budgetary straitjacket or possibly a looming social crisis. Over the next generation, the population of seniors will practically double, to 72 million. With more people retiring and a smaller share of people working, the strains on Social Security and especially Medicare will become evident. Over the very long term, the two programs combined are projected to consume virtually the entire federal budget. A portion of Medicare (the part that pays hospital bills) faces insolvency much sooner than that — in 2019. “The entitlement problem is here and now,” says Eugene Steuerle, a senior fellow of the Urban Institute. “It is so big and overwhelming, none of the candidates feel they can tackle it.”