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Save Social Security... Later

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WASHINGTON: Heck, let's just save them next year. The Clinton administration released new actuarial figures Tuesday predicting that thanks to the booming economy, Medicare and Social Security have more life in them than we thought. According to the latest long-term economic projections, Medicare won't run out of money until 2015 (as opposed to last year's forecast of 2008) and Social Security will be solvent until 2034 (up from 2032). Suspicious? Don't be. The economic projections are very conservative, and the math, though released by a group of trustees that counted three Cabinet members among them, was double-checked by an outside team. And the last place Clinton wants this poll-approved rescue to be is on the back burner.

"Now is the time to make those changes," Clinton said at a Rose Garden ceremony Tuesday, and later Senate Finance Committee head William Roth agreed: "We cannot let this good news make us complacent." But Roth also admitted that since Democrats and Republicans are still miles apart on their methods of saving the funds, a lot of the air just seeped out of the solvency crisis. Privately, the GOP shouldn't mourn. When it comes to Social Security and Medicare, the polls say Mr. Empathy has the public on his side, so they'll have a better chance at getting the credit under a new president. But expect Clinton to continue to push for the needed reforms. As Kosovo stains his foreign-policy resumÚ blood red, saving FDR's fund was to be his last best achievement. Ironic that the healthy economy may frustrate his hopes of getting it done while he's in office.