These days, trust is hard to come by, especially when it’s Uncle Sam who is talking to you. We’ve all heard the saying about Washington politicians “kicking the can down the road” when it comes to tough fiscal decisions, but it appears that we’re running out of road. A September 2020 report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that America’s major federal trust funds – Highways, Medicare, and Social Security (pensions and disability) – will all be insolvent in 11 years or less.
The Hospital Trust Fund is set to expire in 5 years, and the biggest challenge of them all, the Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Social Security Disability Trust Fund, are together projected to run out in 2032.
The collapse of even parts of the America safety-net would be catastrophic. So what has been done since the CBO’s report to address America’s looming crisis? Are there any legislators left in Washington who are brave enough to pick up the proverbial can and begin the conversation with their colleagues, and the American people, about how we genuinely start the process now of putting a plan in place that ensures the long-term sustainability of these vital programs?
Enter the Time to Rescue United States’ Trusts (TRUST) Act. Introduced recently to address the growing entitlement problem. The TRUST Act is a bipartisan and bicameral proposal which would create a process to rescue the endangered federal trust funds and rein in the national debt, which just passed the $29 trillion mark this year. The bill would force Democrats to sit down and hash out actual solutions to the runaway debt problem, which is the first step in any reform.
“There is broad recognition that we need to address the looming insolvency of our federal trust funds,” stated Sen. Romney. “Getting our country through the COVID-19 pandemic has required us to borrow trillions of dollars, which has in turn threatened essential programs like Medicare and Social Security. Congress must respond in a way which will address this long-term problem, which is coming down the pike much sooner than was expected,” he said.
If enacted, the TRUST Act would first identify the government’s major, endangered trust funds, as mentioned above. A 12-member “Rescue Committee” would be assigned to each endangered fund – one per trust – by Congressional leaders with the mandate to draft legislation that extends long-term solvency and otherwise improves each trust fund program. To ensure bipartisan consensus, the bill requires at least two members of each party to report legislation out of the Rescue Committee.
Committees would have a window of 180 days, although recommendations may be put forward prior to that deadline. To avoid procedural delays, a qualifying bill reported out of a Rescue Committee would receive expedited consideration in both chambers. Sixty votes would be required to invoke cloture prior to final passage in the Senate, and only a simple majority would be needed for the motion to proceed, which would be privileged.
“Future generations of Americans should not be burdened by our poor financial decisions today,” stated Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), an original sponsor of the bill. “Generations of irresponsibly cutting taxes combined with spending beyond our means has left the important programs on which we all depend – Medicare, Social Security, highways, and pensions – on the brink of insolvency… It is past time we got our fiscal house in order.
The TRUST Act is a good start to a long process that will, hopefully soon, bring balance to America’s fiscal health and ultimately set the nation on a path so that generations of Americans who have paid into the system see the benefits of their life’s work. AMAC Action looks forward to helping to pass this important legislation and bringing our ideas, including the social security guarantee to the table during this process. Read more about our advocacy on this issue here: AMAC Issues Press Release Supporting Inclusion of TRUST Act in the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act
Bob Carlstrom is President of AMAC Action