Praise From AARP

Others, including the AARP retiree lobbying group, praised the White House for making its position clear.

"We are pleased to recently hear from a number of top-level officials in Washington that Social Security would be considered separate from the rest of the budget debate," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president.

In their 2010 report, Social Security's trustees said the program will pay more in benefits than it collects in taxes for the first time since 1983. That's led some overhaul advocates to say the program is adding to the deficit.

The report also says the program can pay full benefits through 2037 by drawing on trust fund assets in the form of Treasury bonds. At that point, tax income would cover only 75% of scheduled benefits.

'Miscalculating' Political Moment

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid account for $1.4 trillion of the $3.7 trillion fiscal 2011 budget, almost 40%. That share will rise to $2.7 trillion in a decade and account for about 50% of the budget, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Including interest, entitlement spending will reach $3.7 trillion by 2021, or about 60% of the budget. With no changes, by 2025 entitlement spending could consume all tax revenue.

Overall, over the next 75 years, Social Security faces a $7 trillion unfunded liability and Medicare faces a $36 trillion unfunded liability.

Graham said there may still be a number of Senate bills in the next few weeks addressing Social Security. He plans to introduce a bill with Arizona Senator John McCain. Among the measures it could include are increasing the Social Security retirement age, means-testing benefits for the wealthy and increasing the percentage of wages subject to payroll taxes.

"They're miscalculating the political moment," Graham said of the administration. "I'm still standing and I worked with President Bush to try to do something."


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