If you live in North Carolina, you have about 8 weeks. That is the amount of time that voters have to get candidates running for office to take a stand on the future of Social Security. Because once parties have picked their candidates in the primaries, the time will have passed.

Campaigns at that point will transition from ideas to destroying the competition. At that point, the future of Social Security will return to the backburner, where it has languished for nearly 40 years.

As a libertarian, I tend to warn people about the dangers of big government and the emptiness of the ensuing promises. At the same time, I accept that our form of government gives people choices, and voters appear to have embraced the concept of Social Security. That’s fine of course, provided that someone watches the program and everyone accepts the consequences of allowing a government program to spin out of control.

Little on this earth demonstrates the virtues of libertarianism more than Social Security. The program has been around for 80 years, and for every dollar ever collected, it has created more than $3 of promises that no one expects it to keep. It is a poster child for libertarians.

The program is out of control, and there will be consequences. By the time that the election is held, the average 80 year-old will expect on average to outlive the system’s ability to pay scheduled benefits. At this point, no one is even sure how system-wide reductions would be allocated to the individual. The reason no one knows is because no one has bothered to ask.

Most voters should understand that if candidates can win elections without talking about Social Security, there is little chance that they will provide answers once they arrive in Washington. Right now, voters need to pay attention and demand answers because the campaigns of 2024 appear to be following the historic script of hand-wringing and empty promises. 

Nothing should worry seniors more than the bipartisan sound bites about protecting benefits for those in or approaching retirement. Keep in mind, the promise of Social Security has been benefit reductions in the mid-2030s for 30 years.

Nothing is more destructive to Social Security than the passage of time. Over the course of 2022, the program generated another $800 billion in promises that no one expects it to keep. Whatever cost you experience over the next decade will be higher because Congress did nothing in 2023.

In response to the worrisome prospects of random benefit cuts targeting its members, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) offered a forum to inform voters about what Republican presidential candidates might do “to protect and strengthen Social Security.” Unfortunately, that forum veered from its purpose into the empty rhetoric that largely is responsible for the condition of the program.

  • Congress hasn’t spent your money on other things. The painful fact about Social Security is that it has collected nearly a trillion dollars in general fund subsidies, which is money that Congress put into the program.
  • Benefit cuts for those in their 20s will not provide any remedy to the benefit cuts coming to those who are 79 and younger. Why is this observation such a shocking revelation to those who want to run the country?
  • Economic growth does not solve the problems. In fact, it may well exacerbate the fiscal dysfunction of the system based on recent history.

Every candidate should be familiar with the Trump years and Social Security. Back in 2016, Donald Trump promised that a growing economy would protect Americans who depend upon Social Security. That experience did not work out well for those approaching retirement. During his term, the program’s finances unraveled at a historic pace despite the strong economic growth — described by Trump’s White House as an “Unprecedented Economic Boom.” 

The fact is that the promises for which the program doesn’t expect to generate money grew at more than double the rate of the economy between 2017 and 2020. Essentially, the hole in the program’s finances grew faster than our ability to fill it.

These AARP candidate statements do not actually have any meaningful connection to answering the questions created by the program. Each message is designed to create the illusion of concern about a program that has spun out of control. It is Kevin Bacon in Animal House. “Remain calm, we have this issue under control.”

Voters in North Carolina might not appreciate this message: but you have about 8 weeks to get politicians on record with specific ideas about how the impending crisis will play-out. If you don’t, and your benefits are reduced, nothing has been stolen. You are getting what you deserve, and have been promised for 30 years. These are the consequences of not watching a program as it spun out of control.

As an alternative to blaming Washington, do not write to your congressman. If you are 79 or younger, the obvious question is: Why would AARP give politicians a platform to explore every rabbit hole in Wonderland? You need to write AARP and tell them to do their job.

Before politicians will take any action, they first must reach the conclusion that doing nothing is not a way to earn votes.