Last week’s presidential debate at the Reagan Library elevated Social Security as a national issue that could reshape the 2012 campaign. Candidates spent the week trading blows about the role of the 76-year-old social insurance program.

Leaving aside the political rhetoric, one thing is certain: Social Security needs to be reformed or America will face a dismal future. As one of the three major entitlement programs — along with Medicare and Medicaid — Social Security is contributing to a very dire long-term budget outlook. Spending on the three entitlement programs could consume one-half of the economy by 2056.

Heritage released a plan earlier this year to cut spending and save the program. “Saving the American Dream” outlines steps lawmakers could take now, such as raising the retirement age and creating a flat benefit for Millenials, which would return the program to its original purpose of providing true insurance to those who need it most.

Update: The chart above has been updated to reflect the newest numbers available