The Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees today released their report on the Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs. Here is what it says:
Social Security Just Fine Until At Least 2037
The summary of the report says, "The financial outlook for Social Security is little changed from last year. The short term outlook is worsened by a deeper recession than was projected last year, but the overall 75-year outlook is nevertheless somewhat improved..." and is otherwise fine until at least 2037 with no changes.
It is just fine forever, in fact, if we do something simple like raise the "cap" on earnings that are taxed to pay for the program. (That's right, when you make more than a certain income level you stop paying the tax!) Compare that to the military budget. We spend more than $1 trillion on military and related programs each year -- more than every other country combined -- and unlike Social Security that is completely "unfunded," and adds to the deficit.
Medicare Outlook Improved Substantially
The report also says, "The outlook for Medicare has improved substantially because of program changes made in the [Health Care Reform Bill]"
Those Are The Facts
Those are the simple facts: everything is fine. Everything will be fine. There are some things that should be changed to make them even more OK than they are. They are good programs that demonstrate that government works.
So What's The Problem?
The Social Security program collects money via the "payroll tax." Much, much more money -- trillions -- has been collected than needed to be paid out to cover the coming retirement of the "baby boomers," and the extra -- the "trust fund" -- was invested in US Treasury Bonds.
Under Reagan and then both Bushes that money was borrowed from the trust fund and used to give huge tax cuts to the wealthy. (Clinton was paying it back but Bush II cut taxes again for the wealthy.) Now those boomers are beginning to retire, and the trust fund money that was borrowed and given out to the rich is needed back to cover their retirement. The obvious solution is to get the money from where the money went. But those who it went to are trying to stop the obvious from happening. They say we should cut benefits, make us retire at 70, anything to keep them from paying back what is owed to the retirees.
Oh, and there is another conservative complaint about Social Security. Social Security is very successful and popular, and is a constant, living proof that government of the people, by the people and for the people works and works really well. Among a certain crowd, that just can't be allowed to stand.
So now, let the anti-tax, anti-government conservative bamboozlement begin.
Let The Bamboozlement Begin
The anti-government conservatives are using several approaches to undermine public confidence in the program (and therefore government). MoveOn.org has a "Top 5 Social Security Myths" page up that is worth looking at.
Myth: Social Security is going broke.
Myth: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
Myth: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.
Myth: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs.
Myth: Social Security adds to the deficit.
Please go to the website to learn the truth about these myths. And please answer with those facts when you hear people spreading these myths.
Let's see how the conservatives are doing at spreading myths today, and how the mainstream media covers it:
Heritage Foundation: Once Again, the Social Security Trust Fund Has No Money in It
Washington Times: Social Security in the red for first time ever (Note -- that's only if you don't count the interest that the trust fund earns. Just more bamboozlement.)
That's just a quick sampling. Compare what these headlines lead you to believe to the facts above. When was the last time you saw a headline that reads, "Massive military budget causes huge federal deficit"? Right. Bamboozlement, plain and simple. Expect to see a lot more like these. Don't fall for it.
Social Security Is Not Broken
Social Security is not broken. If we fight the myths and the anti-government lies it will be there for all of us.
Here is a statement by Nancy Altman, co-chairman of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition of 60+ organizations, representing over 30 million Americans:
"Every year, the trustees' reports become an excuse for fear mongering by those who should know better. This year, the news is especially good for Medicare, thanks to the enactment of health care reform. The news for Social Security is even better, revealing once again that Social Security's promised benefits are fully affordable without benefit cuts and without increasing the retirement age. Poll after poll reports that's what the American people want. Unfortunately, we know there are some in Washington, including a few members of the Administration's fiscal commission, who will use this report to try to advance their agenda of cuts to Social Security benefits, including rising the retirement age. Politicians should stop scaring the American people. Social Security is strong and should be strengthened, not cut. The reality is the biggest threat to Social Security is the politicians in Washington who continue to play politics with this issue."
Send a message to the politicians: No increase in the retirement age. No privatization. No Social Security cuts. Go to ourfuture.org/nosocialsecuritycuts.
Follow Dave Johnson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dcjohnson