On Jan. 1 of this year, the very first baby boomer- Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, the first baby born on Jan. 1, 1946 – turned 62 and thus became eligible for Social Security. She is the first of the wave of 3.2 million boomers who will become eligible for Social Security this year. At least half of them will likely start drawing benefits (which are lower by about a third than the full benefits they receive if they wait until age 66).
In three years, this initial wave of boomers will be eligible for Medicare, and a year after that, the half that didn’t take the early Social Security benefits will be entitled to full benefits.
When the last wave of boomers retire (in 2030), the number of Social Security recipients will have exploded from the present 50 million to a staggering 84 million, an increase of nearly 70% – while the number of Medicare recipients will have jumped from the present 44 million recipients to 79 million, an increase of nearly 80%.
In terms of the so-called entitlement trust funds (i.e., the IOUs the government issues to cover the surplus payroll taxes used to augment general revenues), Medicare – which already spends more than it takes in – will completely empty its trust fund within eleven years. Social Security will start spending more than it takes in easily within nine years, and will empty its trust fund within about 30 years. All of these projections assume no massive economic downturns.
Not surprisingly, none of the Democrat presidential candidates duking it out in the primaries have mentioned this important milestone – not surprising, since they all promise to give even more entitlements, like free health care, to nearly 50 million more citizens.
But none of the Republican candidates (except Fred Thompson, who is not doing well) has mentioned it either, perhaps because they remember how badly Bush was beaten up when he tried to address Social Security reform a few years back.