Two great pictures:
“Off-budget” means social security — it’s currently running a surplus of around 1.5% of GDP or over $150 billion/year. Hardly a crisis, that. The general fund, however, is running a deficit in the neighborhood of 5% of GDP. That’s about $600b for 2004 (based on these somewhat dated numbers.) Now that sounds a lot more like a crisis. Of course, fixing that will require spending cuts, tax hikes, or both, so don’t hold your breath.
By comparison to the malignancies in the general fund, Social Security looks quite benign indeed (this figure is based on the trustees’ intermediate projections for economic performance). Social Security spending is barely projected to rise above 5% of GDP. Of course, that is a lot of money. But we would all be better served in the short to medium run by fixing the massive general fund deficit and Medicare. (And no, this monstrosity does not count as fixing Medicare; quite the opposite in fact.)