As President Obama faces pressure on the left to defend federal entitlement programs from the benefit cuts that the Republicans say are necessary to keep the programs solvent decades down the road, one part of Social Security could fall short of paying out full benefits within a few years — even while Obama is still president.
Over the long term, Social Security and Medicare have promised tens of trillions of dollars more in benefits than the nation can pay for under current policies. But Social Security’s disability trust fund is in even worse shape, and current estimates say by 2016 it won’t have enough money to pay full benefits.
“That’s three years from now,” Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center said. “And given the president’s rhetoric and his posture, it’s quite clear that he has no intention of doing anything about it.”
The fiscal security of the disability trust fund got rapidly worse as the unemployment rate rose. The number of applications has almost doubled in the last 10 years, from 1.5 million a year in 2001 to more than 2.8 million a year in 2012.
Obama has said little about how he would fix the fund’s finances.
“President Clinton talked about ‘mend it, don’t end it,'” Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute said. “To judge by (Obama’s) remarks, there’s nothing that needs mending in our entitlement systems.”