"Reform of our unsustainable entitlement programs" should be a priority, he said in prepared remarks to the Economics Club of Washington. "The imperative to undertake reform earlier rather than later is great," Bernanke added.
It marked the Fed chief's most extensive comments to date on the challenges facing the United States with the looming retirement of 78 million baby boomers.
In his remarks, Bernanke did not offer Congress and the Bush administration recommendations on how the massive entitlement programs should be changed. Efforts by the administration to overhaul the Social Security program _ once a centerpiece of President Bush's second-term agenda _ sputtered last year, meeting resistance from Republicans and Democrats alike.
As the population ages, the nation will have to choose among higher taxes, less non-entitlement spending by the government, a reduction in spending on entitlement programs, a sharply higher budget deficit or some combination thereof, Bernanke said.
Government spending on Social Security and Medicare alone will increase from about 7 percent of the total size of the U.S. economy to almost 13 percent by 2030 and to more than 15 percent by 2050, he said.
The Chairman of the Fed's big claim to fame is on how the US trade deficit doesn't matter because we can pay for it.
If he is telling us we can't pay for our social security and welfare state... WORRY