IT’S BECOME AN annual warning: the trustees of the combined Social Security trust funds, one for retirees and one for the people who claim disability benefits, along with Medicare spending, say the outlays will exceed its income for the first time since 1982.

In their annual report a month ago, the trustees said the Social Security trust funds are projected to be depleted in 2034, three years sooner than expected a year ago, if changes are not made. The program’s income comes from tax revenue and interest from the trust fund.

In 2017, payroll taxes workers had withheld made up $874 billion out of the nearly $1 trillion in revenue that went toward paying benefits. Interest on the trust fund IOUs supplemented the benefits and that came from the general fund.

That interest hit a peak of $118.4 billion in 2009. In 2017, that number dropped to $85.1 billion despite rising interest rates.

In more dire news, trustees said Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than anticipated, absent changes. At that point, the program would be able to handle just 91% of costs.

Skeptics conclude that the entitlement problem cannot be solved for three reasons: the beneficiaries of income transfers will not support change, the Democrats will not support change in payments for individuals for fear of not getting elected and Republicans will refuse to reform entitlements for fear of not getting elected.

The fact is, keeping Social Security solvent will require corrections equal to prospective benefit reductions of 21% across the board, according to Charles Blahous, a former public trustee for the Social Security and Medicare programs.

He said the expenditures began to exceed its tax income in 2010. The fund began to rely on the trust fund’s interest earnings which are paid from the government’s general fund.

Even that is not working now, so the program is dipping into the trust fund principal. Blahous warned that the drain will only get worse as the rate of baby boomers reaching retirement age (10,000 per day) continues and with most retirees living longer.

As for Medicare, that beloved program has never maintained substantial reserves and poses a greater economic effect on federal deficits.

Ken Fisher, financial columnist, author and founder of Fisher Investments, said the doom and gloom forecasts are overblown. He said the Social Security trust funds are a pay-as-you-go program and can be preserved if Congress has the courage to patch the system.

He proposes raising the payroll taxes plus employee contributions from the current 12.4% to about 15%. That should be done over the next 25 years. Minor tax increases over time will hardly be noticed.

Second, Fisher said Congress should raise the cap on earnings eligible for Social Security taxes, currently $128,400. Middle-class workers earning less than this amount would see very little change. Raise the cap how much? Make it $200,000, $250,000 or $400,000 a year. Stagger the increase over 15 years.

Third, the retirement age for people born in or after 1960 is 67. Immediately raise the retirement age for millennials to 70. Offer incentives to anyone waiting to retire until age 72 or 75. These three changes would be realistic adjustments based on life expectancy and income inflation.

A novel thought: eliminate federal and state income taxes for all teenagers younger than the age of 18. This would be an incentive for teens to work. While they would still contribute to Social Security, they would be encouraged to earn a wage and learn valuable work habits.

About 61.5 million people receive retirement or disability benefits from Social Security and 58.4 million receive Medicare. Last year, there were 2.8 workers for every Social Security recipient, down from 3.3 in 2007.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 62.7% of working-age Americans had jobs in May, unchanged from the previous year. That is 5% less than the most recent peak level of 67.3% in 2000.

Roughly 155,474,000 Americans had jobs in May. Only 3.8% of the workforce is unemployed. The number of workers receiving federal disability benefits has soared to about 15 million from about 4 million in 1990. Trustees say the disability fund is expected to run out in 2032 unless Congress acts soon.

Do you realize the United States has legally naturalized more than 60 million immigrants since the mid-1960s? Some economists say the best way to increase Social Security coffers is to engage Americans to rejoin the U.S. workforce and to get them working more hours.

Immigrants account for more than half of the U.S. population growth. The United States has a very low birth rate and population growth, and that won’t support the economic growth it needs to maintain the entitlement state.

In the business world, robots and technology are taking the place of human workers. Immigrants are often employed in low-skill jobs and are in danger of being displaced at a higher rate. As a result, that does not help increase payroll tax revenues or support the Social Security and Medicare programs.