In the mid-80’s, Ronald Reagan sat down with Speaker Tip O’Neill and crafted a few fixes to secure Social Security as a self-funding program for the next quarter century. It worked, just as planned. They knew, as did congress then and as does congress now, that future congresses would be required to do the same from time to time. They knew then as they know now, that Social Security is sound policy and a sound program, unless . . . .
For nearly a century, this marvel of policy engineering has kept generations of our elders out of poverty.
For all of that time, it’s also had enemies, determined to destroy it. In the 80’s, Reagan and O’Neill and the sensible policy establishment (much more centrist then) in Washington hadn’t yet heard of Newt Gingrich or Grover Norquist or Pete Peterson (well, those aforementoined ‘enemies’ had heard of Peterson all right – he financed them). Nor did they know that a well-funded campaign was already underway to convince younger Americans that SS wouldn’t be there for them, while quietly engineering its destruction.
They’ve pretty much succeeded. Because they knew that all it would take to break Social Security was to refuse to fix it.