When people discussing reducing the debt, they generally oppose making "cuts" in social security and other entitlements. This aversion to "cuts" makes it impossible to balance the budget in an honest way.
Unfortunately to have an honest discussion about the debt we need honest accounting. We have to step outside the language associated with politics (i.e. propaganda) and into the language of normal accounting and finance.
First, we need to calculate how much social security is really worth.
Maximum social security benefits are currently $2,346/month. I’m currently 30 years old so I would not be eligible for this maximum amount for another 36 years.
Let’s do some math. Assume that inflation is 2%/year indefinitely and the maximum social security payment tracks inflation, let’s assume that I’m getting the maximum and let’s assume that I live to be 90.
Under this scenario, I have known cash flows for the years that I’m between 66 and 90. If we assume a discount rate of 5%, it’s relatively easy to calculate the present value of these cash flows, which is: $170,384.10 (to simplify the analysis I made the calculation on an annual basis).
Assuming that USG is a risk-free counterparty, a rational person in my position would therefore – theoretically – be indifferent to receiving $170,384.10 today and forgoing future social security payments or just keeping future social security payments.
According to an honest accounting system, USG would book a liability of $170,384.10 to me right now. It doesn’t.
Of course, there is one huge thing missing from this analysis. We must also consider the likelihood of USG being able to honor it’s social security obligations. Regardless of your politics, you’re an idiot if you think that there is a 100% chance of USG honoring these obligations. To accurately determine the present value of social security, the $170,384.10 should be multiplied by the likelihood of USG paying out as promised. So, if you think there’s a 50/50 chance of USG paying out in 36 years, the real value of my social security benefits are $85,192.50.
So, an honest discussion of the budget would make it clear that "cuts" in my benefits only take place below this new threshold.
To be totally honest, I think there’s a zero percent that USG will be able to pay me under the current social security regime in 30 years, so I view it as impossible to "cut" "my" social security.