Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fighting the anti-Social Security trolls

Aghast at the misinformed commentary to a post at alternet, I wrote this:

Don't listen to anti-SS trolls here, read Krugman and Dean Baker.  SS currently has a $2.6 Trillion surplus in US bonds.  Paying those bonds is, like any other US bonds, an obligation of the US government.  Social Security is not part of the US budget under current law.  The "unified budget" was a fiction created to make deficits look smaller in 1969 and was abolished in 1983 when the SS tax was raised to keep the system out of trouble for 75 years if not more (had the economy done as well as before, the trust fund would have continued growing forever).

Social security has a tiny shortfall that arises in the 2030's because wage growth has slowed.  That is when the Trust Fund goes to zero under current projections.  Even then, with nothing in the trust fund, under current law, it would continue to be able to make 75% of payments from the incoming taxes, as it is mainly a pay-as-you-go system, and should stay that way forever.  In his Social Security Commission Report of 1983, Alan Greenspan said the overall structure of the system should not be changed.

The tiny shortfall could be eliminated in various ways.  To give you an idea of how small it is, it could be eliminated by raising the median payroll tax by 40 cents per week (source: Angry Bear blog).  Now, currently the US is paying 2% of the payroll tax as a stimulus measure.  When the US cuts that 2% stimulus, it could replace it by paying the less than 1% required to eliminate the shortfall.  But somehow politicians love the shortfall as it provides a cover for cuts they wanted to make anyway to please their plutocratic masters on Wall Street.

There are about 30 different ways already scored by CBO as to how to deal with the social security shortfall of the 2030's.  Changing the cost of living adjustment is one of the most regressive ones because it hits hardest poor elderly people who have nothing but social security, and it increases the pain over time so we won't see it all now.  Raising the earnings cap, as Obama previously suggested, would not do that, full benefits would be retained, some people would pay more and get higher benefits.

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