President-elect Donald Trump has said he will preserve Social Security, though if he and Congress do nothing to fix the funding, the financial reckoning will be huge — as much as $11.4 trillion down the road.
The last time Congress changed Social Security in a significant way with a series of benefit cuts and payroll tax increases was in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan.
Back then, the federal government needed to fill a funding gap of about 1 percent of taxable workers’ wages. By the time Social Security’s trust funds are projected to run out in the early 2030s, the federal government will have to plug a hole of more than 3 percent, according to estimates by Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.
“Just to keep the system afloat from year to year at that point they would have to inflict near-term pain over three times as severe as was the case in 1983,” Blahous said.
Though the Trump transition team has yet to make any proposals about Social Security, one Republican lawmaker has detailed how he would change it.
Congressman Sam Johnson, an 86-year-old Texan who represents the Dallas suburbs and is chairman of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, unveiled a bill in December in the last Congress that aims to fix the program without raising payroll taxes.