Our Counterfeit Social Security Crisis

The humorist Mark Twain once called reports of his death “an exaggeration.” The same goes for the endless fearmongering and scare stories about America’s most popular government program, Social Security.

On the contrary, the nation’s safety net for seniors is in remarkably good shape. The trust fund holds government securities worth nearly $2.9 trillion, just under its all-time high. In 2092, at the end of the latest 75-year projection, the inflow from payroll taxes would still be covering roughly three-quarters of scheduled worker benefits—without increasing the tax rate or raising the retirement age or making any other change. That’s the truth and nothing but the truth, according to the 2018 annual report of the Social Security board of trustees.

Never let the facts get in the way of false alarms. As recently as mid-October, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were the only way to lower the federal deficit. He urged legislators to “address the real drivers of the debt” and “adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future.”

Just-retired House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent his entire Congressional career pushing the same notions. He doubled down in his farewell address, calling entitlement reform (the GOP camouflage for cuts) “our greatest unfinished business.”

An inconvenient truth: since McConnell became the Senate leader in 2015—with Ryan already leading the House—the deficit has risen by 77 percent. Judge for yourself whether they’re genuine fiscal hawks or the common faux variety. Putting it another way, ask them to choose between a slimmed-down deficit and fat tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. (Oh, right, they already did.)

Linking Social Security to the nation’s red ink is hugely misleading. At the same time, it’s hugely true…

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