An Eduardo Porter column in the New York Times reports:
Virtually every economist contends that paying for current Social Security and Medicare benefits into the future will require not just higher taxes on the rich, but also more money from everyone. There are fewer workers paying taxes for every retiree collecting benefits. The choice is between slashing the retirement package and raising taxes on the young.
I find this analysis flawed. First of all, I wouldn't put too much stock in the workers to retirees ratio. It reminds me of the statistics on the numbers of American farmers as a percentage of the population. There are a lot fewer farmers working for every American that needs to be fed than there used to be; American farming has just gotten a lot more productive and efficient. Second, if the worker-to-retiree ration is such a big concern, it's certainly subject to change via policies that would create more workers, by incentivizing larger families, by admitting more immigrants, or by reducing marginal tax rates and regulation in a way that increases labor force participation by the existing population. Or by taking all three of those steps. Finally, there may be ways to reduce the growth rate in Medicare spending in ways that elderly beneficiaries do not experience as "slashing," though politically it will be demagogued as such and there certainly are interest groups, such as doctors and drug companies, that are wary and might resist.