It's time for every journalist's favorite annual kabuki ritual, the one where Social Security and Medicare trustees release their reports, and conservatives interpret it as a sign of the coming geezer apocalypse where all life on earth will be extinguished by the sheer weight of outstanding medical bills, while liberals argue that Social Security is just fine and Medicare is the problem but we'll solve that problem by making some unspecified cuts at some unspecified point in the future.
This year the "it's fine" arguers have a tough uphill climb. The year that Social Security goes bankrupt and cuts benefits by 25% moved up four years, to 2037. The surplus fell 25%. The date that Social Security starts becoming a drain on the general fund, rather than subsidizing it, moved forward a year, to 2016. And suddenly these dates don't sound so comfortably far off, do they?
I'll agree with the liberals on this: the numbers are large, but they are not, economically speaking, catastrophically large. It is theoretically possible to pay for the program.
But I'll disagree with them on this: Social Security is an immense problem. But the problem is not the cash outflow of benefits draining the economy; it is political risk, and structural inefficiency.