The way social security works, essentially, is that we pay for it from our payroll taxes. Right now we pay more than is needed for benefits, and the extra goes into a "trust fund." Most everyone agrees -- for now -- on the forecast that around 2018, social security will be sending out more money than it takes in -- this requiring the use of the trust fund to cover the difference -- and that sometime after 2040 the trust fund will have no more money.
Republicans say this constitutes a crisis, because we will start to deplete our resources in 2018. Democrats say it is not a crisis, because we have a long time to fix it.
But the truth is that it's worse than that, and it is a crisis.
We have no trust fund, in the common use of the word. It's a filing cabinet with a folder full of IOUs. There's no actual money there, because the government borrowed that money to use for other purposes. In 2018, we will need to raise revenue to pay off those IOUs in order to pay for social security benefits. So it's not in 40 years that we begin to have to pay more money we don't have for social security, it's in 10 or so.
I don't know what the solution is, but don't let people tell you we have the money to pay for benefits once the revenue drops beneath the expenditures. It isn't true.