President-elect Donald Trump has said he will preserve Social Security, though if he and Congress do nothing to fix the funding, the financial reckoning will be huge — as much as $11.4 trillion down the road.
The last time Congress changed Social Security in a significant way with a series of benefit cuts and payroll tax increases was in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan.
Back then, the federal government needed to fill a funding gap of about 1 percent of taxable workers' wages. By the time Social Security's trust funds are projected to run out in the early 2030s, the federal government will have to plug a hole of more than 3 percent, according to estimates by Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at George Mason University's Mercatus Center.
"Just to keep the system afloat from year to year at that point they would have to inflict near-term pain over three times as severe as was the case in 1983," Blahous said.