On Wednesday, Quinby House welcomed Professor Jean Yarbrough to speak about Social Security?what it is, and where it might be going. While she admitted she is not an expert on the topic, her talk was lucid and accessible, and certainly helped the students in attendance sort through a system that seems complex and irrelevant to many young adults. In fact, Yarborough expressed surprise that so many showed up, since for many college students Social Security isn't on the list of things to be thinking about.
It ought to be. With President Bush's push to address Social Security's growing financial trouble, the topic is increasingly discussed in the media, among pundits, and in the halls of Congress. While the system is of immediate material concern only to those in or near retirement, young Americans ought to educate themselves about the system, for it is our financial future that is ultimately at stake.
It is beyond this editorial's present scope to address the current condition of Social Security and the various suggestions about what to do with it. What we will say is this: it is readily apparent that Social Security is, as it stands now, unsustainable. What's more, the program will be in true crisis at about the time our generation begins to collect benefits. The current debate, then, is one in which all of us should take a keen interest, and in doing so ensure our thoughts on the matter are well-informed.
It does not help that the debate is increasingly politicized by an injurious partisanship. Republicans are disingenuous to deem the current situation a "crisis," but many Democrats are being equally underhanded when they pretend there is no problem. Both often anchor their rhetoric in the comfort of ideology, and not the admittedly painful territory of facts and circumstances. But whatever one may think of the various proposals to "fix" Social Security, diffusing a looming crisis is smarter policy than waiting for an actual one.
In short, this is a debate worth having, and worth having now. It is also a debate in which students should feel comfortable and compelled to participate. Professor Yarbrough's talk was a step in the right direction, but we hope the on-campus discussion does not stop there. There is too much at stake. For, to adapt a famous quote of President Eisenhower, when gambling with the future, there is one thing you cannot do?lose.