Bradley’s Social Security Proposal – to Reduce What Deficit?

Via Greg Mankiw comes this review of Bill Bradley’s The New American Story:

To get the budget deficit under control, Bradley proposes gradually raising the minimum eligibility age for Social Security until the year 2099, when it would be 70 (he recommends a “narrowly liberalized” disability benefit for people in their late 60s whose jobs cause health problems that won’t permit them to keep working). This is more than justified, he notes correctly, by the rise in average life expectancy (from 61 years to 78) in the seven decades since Social Security was introduced.

It may not be fair to judge Bill Bradley on what Tim Noah writes here. Greg seemed to like the statement, but I find it utterly nonsensical. First of all – WHICH deficit are we referring to? The Social Security system is currently running a surplus. We might need to address shortfalls in the distant future, but the deficit we have now is a large General Fund deficit. Gradual increases in the minimum eligibility age might be necessary for the long-run solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund but to say “to get the budget deficit under control” is the kind of stupid silliness we’d expect from the National Review.