An examination of long-term budget projections reveals that they should not be taken literally, but they do serve several important purposes. They suggest the existence of huge threats to our future well-being, even though those threats may play out differently than the projections suggest. They provide a better understanding of the magnitude of the problems we face and the types of policy changes necessary to avert disaster. They identify the benefits of acting sooner rather than later. And they provide a context for assessing frequently proposed reforms for Social Security and Medicare, particularly proposals by the president and others that would "use the budget surplus to save Social Security."
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