In which the would-be Speaker dances on the third rail. In a sane world, the only debate here would be over how far we should raise it. Chuck Hagel proposed doing it years ago, when Bush was pushing his privatization initiative, and no wonder: Social Security will be massively underfunded in the years ahead and the national debt, according to Steny Hoyer, is now a serious national security problem. Gotta get those costs down ASAP — like the French have! But as I say, that’s in a sane world. In our world, this will produce a bunch of uncomfortable glances among GOP strategists and a flood of crocodile tears from Democrats, who see something they can demagogue in the fall to try to mitigate the beating they’re going to take among older voters.

I give him credit for honesty, though, notwithstanding the risk. An important election will always be right around the corner; if that’s the excuse for not facing up to hard realities, we’ll never face them.

“We’re all living a lot longer than anyone ever expected,” Boehner said in a meeting with the editors of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And I think that raising the retirement age — going out 20 years, so you’re not affecting anyone close to retirement — and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken.”…

Boehner also floated several other reforms to Social Security, paired with raising the retirement age, to make it more solvent. Boehner said benefits should be tied to increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) instead of wage inflation, and he suggested reducing or eliminating benefits to Americans with a “substantial non-Social Security income” while retired.

“We just need to be honest with people,” he said. “I’m not suggesting it’s going to be easy, but I think if we did those three things, you’d pretty well solve the problem.”

Not-so-fun fact: Raising the retirement age to 70 and then having it track increasing life expectancy (as Reason contributor Veronique de Rugy recommends) will only put a dent of 30 percent in the Social Security shortfall over the next 75 years. More will have to be done, but it’s a start. Is the public ready for it, though? Take a drink, then eyeball the numbers in this new Pew poll about austerity measures voters might accept in order to bring state budgets back into something resembling solvency. They don’t want new taxes, but they don’t want cuts to services either. Time to start planting money trees, America.

Via Breitbart, here’s Cantor assuring The One per his comments at the G20 that the GOP isn’t bluffing when it comes to reducing the debt. Given Boehner’s willingness to take on Social Security, I almost believe him.