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As Washington's stalemated debate over avoiding the so-called "fiscal cliff" continues to fester, Social Security is once again in the cross-hairs of would-be deficit hawks across the political spectrum. This week, the New York Times profiled Maya MacGuineas, who "has spent years warning about threats to the solvency of Social Security and to the rating of American debt." While conservative Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) declared, "I will raise the debt ceiling only if we save Medicare and Social Security from insolvency and prevent this country from becoming Greece," centrist Fareed Zakaria and liberal Ruth Marcus took "the American left" to task for the "liberal uproar" over its opposition to President Obama's support for using the "chained CPI" to raise taxes and curb the growth of Social Security benefits.

Unfortunately, there's one small problem with these bipartisan calls to swing the budget axe at the pension system upon which tens of millions American retirees depend. As it turns out, Social Security simply is not a major driver of the U.S. national debt.

Now, it may be true that 1 in 5 Americans will be over age 65 by 2030 and that there will be there will be just over two workers per retiree (compared to five per retiree in 1960). But as Ezra Klein explained in "the single best graph on what's driving our deficits" (above):

What these three charts tell you is simple: It's all about health care. Spending on Social Security is expected to rise, but not particularly quickly. Spending on everything else is actually falling.
Which is exactly right.

Continue reading below the fold.

As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) explained in its November analysis "Choices for Deficit Reduction," it is the rapid growth of federal health spending--especially on Medicare for almost 50 million seniors--which risks overwhelming the federal budget. (It is worth noting that the near-doubling of defense spending since 2000 means that all other discretionary spending has contracted on education, transportation, research, foreign aid and everything else.)  But while combined federal health care spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy will roughly triple between 2000 and 2030, Social Security will tick upwards from about 4 percent to 6 percent.

And while Social Security is not a major factor in the growth of U.S. national debt, its dedicated trust fund actually makes the current deficit picture look better, not worse. As David Cay Johnston helpfully summed it up in May:

Which federal program took in more than it spent last year, added $95 billion to its surplus and lifted 20 million Americans of all ages out of poverty?

Why, Social Security, of course, which ended 2011 with a $2.7 trillion surplus.

That surplus is almost twice the $1.4 trillion collected in personal and corporate income taxes last year. And it is projected to go on growing until 2021, the year the youngest Baby Boomers turn 67 and qualify for full old-age benefits.

So why all the talk about Social Security "going broke?"

The answer, as Johnston lamented, is that "the people who want to kill Social Security have for years worked hard to persuade the young that the Social Security taxes they pay to support today's gray hairs will do nothing for them when their own hair turns gray." And at the center of their argument, Paul Krugman has repeatedly warned, is a bait and switch. After the Washington Post joined the conservative chorus last year bemoaning the fact that the temporary payroll tax cut predictably resulted in Social Security is currently taking in less in payroll taxes than it's paying out in benefits, Krugman explained:
Social Security is a program that is part of the federal budget, but is by law supported by a dedicated source of revenue. This means that there are two ways to look at the program's finances: in legal terms, or as part of the broader budget picture.

In legal terms, the program is funded not just by today's payroll taxes, but by accumulated past surpluses -- the trust fund. If there's a year when payroll receipts fall short of benefits, but there are still trillions of dollars in the trust fund, what happens is, precisely, nothing -- the program has the funds it needs to operate, without need for any Congressional action.

Alternatively, you can think about Social Security as just part of the federal budget. But in that case, it's just part of the federal budget; it doesn't have either surpluses or deficits, no more than the defense budget.

Both views are valid, depending on what questions you're trying to answer.

In the longer term, Social Security's finances will need some shoring up. Its actuaries forecast that the program will start paying out more than it starts taking in by 2021. Under current tax rules, by 2033, recipients would receive only about three-quarters of promised benefits. But as Johnston advocates, there are several straight-forward options for keeping Social Security in the black for generations to come:

One would be restoring the Reagan standard that 90 percent of wages are covered by the Social Security tax, which now applies to only 83 percent of wages. If we went back to the Reagan standard, the Social Security tax would apply to close to $200,000 of wages this year instead of $110,100.
(You can test the impact of this and other changes on the U.S. debt by experimenting with the New York Times' interactive "budget puzzle.")

A variation is the one proposed by then candidate Barack Obama in 2007 and introduced to the Senate last year by Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders' bill would impose the payroll tax on incomes above $250.000 a year, a move guaranteeing the program's future for 75 years.

Social Security, as Senator Sanders protested last year, "is not going bankrupt and it is not going broke." But in conjunction with Medicare, it is keep millions of elderly Americans out of poverty. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) recently reported, without Social Security, 14 million more seniors would live below the poverty line, a staggering jump from 8.7 percent to over 43 percent:

For nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security provides the majority of their cash income. For more than one-third (36 percent), it provides more than 90 percent of their income. For one-quarter (24 percent) of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security is the sole source of retirement income.
But not, as the fiscal cliff dwellers suggest, a cause of today's federal deficits.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 02:56 PM PST.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Dang Jon! (14+ / 0-)

    You might have added "BREAKING" to that Title :)

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 02:57:40 PM PST

  •  Great diary, thanks (19+ / 0-)

    "Let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation....It's how we are as Americans...It's how this country was built"- Michelle Obama

    by blueoregon on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 03:10:08 PM PST

  •  I had this same argument with a relative (25+ / 0-)

    who is a Republican.  He is in the brokerage business and was the one who brought up Social Security along with Medicare as the main reasons for the skyrocketing debt.  I reminded him that the three biggest causes of the rise in the debt since 2000 were the Bush tax cuts, the two unfunded wars, and the current economic situation.  He totally disagreed with that statement which was a good indication that the conversation was going to go downhill from there.

    Then I said that Social Security has not contributed one cent to the debt and should not even be a part of the conversation about the debt since it is funded from a dedicated trust fund separate from the rest of the budget.  His response to me was that I had drunk too much of the liberal kool aid if that was what I believed.  I responded that perhaps he needed to do some research first because he was wrong, dead wrong.  After getting dirty looks from several other family members, I shut up.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 03:36:53 PM PST

  •  What about the money that has been (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    borrowed from S.S. Why has that that not been brought up?

    •  borrowed? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, elwior

      Why has that that not been brought up?

      Cause it never happened. Its not like the  SS Trust fund is a bank vault with cash in it, and they lend it out........

      Every cent of the trust fund is in Special US Treasuries.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:30:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  SS Trust Fund is invested in treasury securities (5+ / 0-)

      and yes, its likely the fascist conservatives in the WH and Congress don't want to repay all of that money.

      As others have pointed out, the SS Trust Fund actually pads the deficit, making it look smaller.  

      There's no valid reason to cut SS benefits w/ the chained CPI.  Why it is constantly being pushed by conservative Dems and Republicans is an unknown.  For Republicans, its easy to assume they're just playing the usual game of budgetary sadism, but for Democrats its more difficult to understand.  Stupid?  Lazy?  Enthralled by lobbyists for the defense industry & other corporations?  

      Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

      by Betty Pinson on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:50:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Look (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, Calamity Jean

      Bonds issued by the Federal Government are savings instruments. If that is mysterious to you , you need to call someone who understands money. Because you don't.

      "If I pay a man enough money to buy my car, he'll buy my car." Henry Ford

      by johnmorris on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:01:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  and yet the Democratic leaders, (14+ / 0-)

    specifically President Obama, always insist on putting it on the table in deficit reduction talks.

    Probably because they know that there is zero support for cutting Social Security, and if they brought up SS cuts as a standalone issue their efforts would be defeated heavily, just as Bush's attempt to privatize SS was shortly after his reelection.

    Hence the whole self-inflicted "fiscal cliff." The massive, general budget cuts they agreed to a year ago are being used as a pretext to effect specific, targeted cuts in the New Deal programs (which, again, have nothing to do with the budget).

    The only option, we are being told, is to agree to these totally unrelated cuts in SS/Medicare as part of a compromise to avoid the pain from these general budget cuts. For that is the only possible way they can manage these cuts to the New Deal programs without facing massive popular opposition, to wrap these cuts up as part of a solution to another problem entirely.

    And a significant part of the Democratic base is going along with the president's framing. The talk is that small cuts to SS and Medicare would be a sensible thing to exchange for the Republicans being reasonable on tax revenue (but really, have the Republicans been reasonable about anything in the last decade or so, no matter how much we give in to them?)

    Social Security and Medicare have nothing to do with the budget and they are not to be used as bargaining chips in any budgetary crisis--no matter how dire. They are held apart precisely to protect them from political machinations over the budget, like the one now going on in Washington.

    The stupidest thing the Democrats could do would be to give hostages to fortune and barter away the New Deal programs in negotiations over budgetary matters. Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly where they are headed.

    "In America, the law is king." --Thomas Paine

    by limpidglass on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:21:34 PM PST

    •  The public is very opposed to SS cuts (4+ / 0-)

      Any politician who thinks they can pull it off is crazy.

      Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

      by Betty Pinson on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:58:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  What if Obama makes the deal... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      howd, elwior

      ...then pushes to get the way CPI is calculated change?  Mind you, I'm in no way supporting this plan and I think that even offering up changes to SS in the first place allows the Republicans to fight on their own terms. But I keep asking myself what in the hell is going on in Obama's mind. I am not convinced he gives that little a shit about the elderly to let them get comparatively poorer year after year.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not holding my breath that that's what he has planned. I'm merely posing the question as to whether or not the idea is possible and/or plausible.

      •  Kinda Like That Public Option ... (5+ / 0-)

        ... Obama was going to fight for after we passed the public option-less ACA, eh?

        I've seen this movie before, and I definitely don't like how it ends.

        Poor man wants to be rich. Rich man wants to king. And the king ain't satisifed until he rules everything. B.Springsteen

        by howd on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 10:08:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  You have no idea how he feels about the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bluesee, magnetics

        elderly, or the poor, or anyone or anything.

        He's a product that was sold to you like cheeze wiz or green grocery bags.  You have no idea what he values or what his goals are or what's in his heart of hearts.

        What you should be able to figure out for yourself is that messing with Social Security when the Republicans have a very large House majority is not going to turn out well for Seniors, orphans, and the disabled.

        "Furthermore, if you think this would be the very very last cut ever if we let it happen, you are a very confused little rabbit." cai

        by JesseCW on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 11:35:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's why I did not vote for president this year. (0+ / 0-)

      There was no candidate standing up for Social Security.  Obama had a chance in the debates and he passed, saying words to the effect that he and Romney were rather close on that issue.

      Sorry if people are offended.  I have been voting Democratic since McGovern in '72.

      The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

      by magnetics on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 01:18:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A major problem, as you pointed out (9+ / 0-)

    is the agreement of this lie by Democrats.

    Republicans have been trying for years to ruin government by increasing spending every time they are office.

    It's galling to listen to them trash every government program which is successful.  

    If Republicans had there way, the US will remain in debt for ever.

  •  There are two obvious questions... (13+ / 0-)

    ...that this country's so-called national "journalists" should be asking (if we had any legitimate journalists left in this country, that is), regarding this country's budget talks: a) Why do Republicans continue to insist on wanted to cut Social Security during budget talks when Social Security has nothing whasoever to do with this country's deficits or debt? ...and b) Since there are many billions of dollars in the Pentagon budget that the Pentagon doesn't even want, why wouldn't we start cutting in the most logical place: cut out Pentagon money that nobody in the Pentagon even wants?

    •  "if it ain't broke don't fix it"... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wdrath, mike101, Alice in Florida

      ...and nobody is talking about how much SS actually stimulates the economy. Almost all of it goes right back into the local, state and national economy. SS came from its own income taxes(SS,FICA) and it's a gift that keeps on giving in that it still pays local, state, and federal taxes. Every time you buy a gallon of gas, pay your utilities, and mortgage/rent with your SS check. Every time you purchase anything, from groceries to clothing, from cars to tires. It's a cash cow. Why anybody would want to kill it defies all logic. It's mind-boggling to me that it's even on the deficit reduction table at all.

      "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way." John Paul Jones

      by ImpeachKingBushII on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 02:50:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  the single most logical way of cutting (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ImpeachKingBushII, mike101

        our national eliminating unnecessary, wasteful Pentagon spending that the Pentagon itself says they neither need nor want...could easily save about a trillion dollars over ten years without impacting our national defense one bit?

        Our nation's priorities when it comes to our budgeting is beyond's sick and demented.

  •  Because that's where the money is, (7+ / 0-)

    or at least any of the low hanging fruit left after forty years of wealth extraction and transfer upwards.

    Much like Willie Sutton's self-evident response points out, Republicans and far too many Democrats are more willing to risk getting burnt by the third rail in politics than alienate their benefactors in going after one of the few remaining large sources of cash in the economy.

    If only they could find a willing accomplice, one more concerned with being a transformative historical figure than the Overton Window slaying champion of the little guy his supporters hoped they voted for....      

    "extravagant advantage for the few, ultimately depresses the many." FDR

    by Jim R on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:43:49 PM PST

  •  2 Americas, one Lord Blankfein's, et al - and ours (4+ / 0-)

    "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

    by allenjo on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:46:20 PM PST

  •  No matter what set of books you carry it on, SS (0+ / 0-)

    is not self sustaining in the long run and the program needs to be changed to insure that everyone can collect one day.   Don't believe me, read what the SSA has to say:

    The promise made to people who have paid in to date did not involve means testing.  I expect to be paid proportionately to what I have paid in.   If that changes, then they just need to man up and admit that SS as we know it is a thing of the past, and that old age benefits for "the aged poor" will be funded by taxes and the "aged rich" shouldn't expect the SSA to keep its promise.  

    Enough of the fantasy that SS can't be touched, please.  

    Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. - Gandhi

    by SpamNunn on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:07:25 PM PST

    •  Just in case you don't scroll down far enough: (0+ / 0-)
      The Social Security outlook has worsened significantly relative to last year's report. The actuarial deficit in its combined trust funds is now 2.67 percent of taxable payroll, the highest recorded since the last major Social Security financing reforms roughly three decades ago. The single-year deterioration in the 2012 report is the largest recorded since the 1994 report. While the projected depletion date (2033) for the combined trust funds is not the earliest recorded since the 1983 reforms, we are nevertheless now closer to the point of projected depletion than we have been since enactment of those reforms. The combined Social Security trust funds' balance continues to grow in nominal terms, but has been declining generally relative to the total cost of paying benefits since 2008, and will be shrinking after 2012 in real (inflation adjusted) terms. Thus by almost any objective measure, the financial health of the Social Security system has entered a concerning decline.

      While there is no way for us to know what mixture of additional tax revenues and restraints on benefit growth will prove to be the most palatable means of strengthening Social Security's financial position, lawmakers should be aware that it will become increasingly difficult to avoid adverse effects on current beneficiaries, those close to retirement, and low-income beneficiaries in all birth cohorts if legislative changes are delayed much further.

      Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. - Gandhi

      by SpamNunn on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:13:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please Note That the Diary... (13+ / 0-)

        ...mentioned both longer term financial challenges Social Security faces and some of the measures that could be taken to address them.

        While phrased differently, the diary actually mentions the same numbers as the trustees report:

        In the longer term, Social Security's finances will need some shoring up. Its actuaries forecast that the program will start paying out more than it starts taking in by 2021. Under current tax rules, by 2033, recipients would receive only about three-quarters of promised benefits.
        It is also worth noting that the 2010 and 2011 payroll tax cuts President Obama pushed cost the trust fund roughly $100 billion a year.  That had the temporary effect of putting SS into the red for those two years.

        The larger point is that for those looking to make a big dent in the national debt over the next 10-20 years, the two biggest sources are lowering health care costs  (specifically Medicare) and raising tax revenue.

        •  Agree, the discussion of SS long term funding (7+ / 0-)

          should be taken up separately. To lump it in with deficit arguments is dishonest, to say the least.

          And yes, Obama needs to deal with the payroll tax cut that he put in place.  It never should have been enacted simply because it does long term damage to SS receipts.  I still don't understand why he did it.

          Democratic Leaders must be very clear they stand with the working class of our country. Democrats must hold the line in demanding that deficit reduction is done fairly -- not on the backs of the elderly, the sick, children and the poor.

          by Betty Pinson on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:42:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Oy. My inner geek rebels. (5+ / 0-)

          Social Security does contribute to the deficit and the debt. But in often counterintuitive and contradictory ways. For example the adoption of Chained-CPI has the effect of reducing the Unified Budget deficit calculation even as it increases total Public Debt. That is the common sense concept that THE Public Debt is simply a sum of THE budget deficits as those numbers are normally reported in the MSM is totally wrong.

          As an example in FY 2000 Social Security ran a cash surplus (that is excluding interest) and the General Fund ran a cash surplus. Yet both Public Debt and Debt Subject to the Limit (legally different but within a few hundred million of each other) INCREASED by $18 billion.

          Why? Well send in 20 box tops and I will send you a Secret Budget De-Coder Ring (folks over 55 are smiling, the rest of you are asking WTF?). But the short version is that SS surpluses subtract from top line deficit numbers even as those extra TF assets add dollar for dollar to 'Total Public Debt'.

          So there is that. Plus another wrinkle. Current scheduled benefits are projected to increase by formula that would leave real benefits about 12-20% better at Trust Fund depletion than retirees get today. AFTER the projected 25% cut. Now the current scheduled benefit formula is based on fundamental principles of equity and moral precepts common to most world faith and cultural traditions and it would be an outrage to adopt Chained-CPI. That said the Grandma of 2036 will still have a higher standard of living than a Grandma of 2012 from a similar lifetime income position.

          That is 'Catfood' is only a metaphor for a more subtle act of societal injustice, what is really at risk is the whole 'Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother' thing and Eastern equivalents. But the math is tricky. And the conceptual confusion is worse. Particularly when it comes to the concepts of 'deficit' 'debt' and 'unfunded liability'. They just don't map as easily as the Peterson folk would have it. Or for the defenders of Social Security pushing back the other way.

          As an example this statement is actually totally, factually wrong. In a very good cause mind you, and I applaud Jon for the overall post and the thrust of the comment. But still wrong:

          "It is also worth noting that the 2010 and 2011 payroll tax cuts President Obama pushed cost the trust fund roughly $100 billion a year.  That had the temporary effect of putting SS into the red for those two years."

          Oddly the payroll tax holiday cost the TF nothing and equally had nothing to do with SS being cash flow negative those two years. But was still a terrible idea that put SS at long-term risk.

          How could all three of those things be true? Well you will have to wait for that Secret Decoder Ring. Because Federal budget accounting as it relates to the Trust Funds is just weird, weird, weird.

          by Bruce Webb on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 08:54:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  This guy gets it. (0+ / 0-)

            Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. - Gandhi

            by SpamNunn on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 10:28:50 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for the Background and Clarfication... (0+ / 0-)

  's really helpful.

            Your correction on the impact of the 2-year payroll tax cut on the Social Security Trust Fund was especially helpful.  More here from the WSJ:

            The JEC report notes the effect the cut has had on consumers’ pockets and says it boosts the Social Security Trust Fund. As part of its initial design, the reduced revenue earmarked for Social Security was recovered by transfers from the Treasury General Fund. That increases the debt, but keeps the Social Security Trust Fund at the same level it would be without the cut. Meanwhile, the JEC cites an estimate from Macroeconomic Advisers that the economic growth spurred by the tax cut led to saving or creating 400,000 jobs. The workers in those positions, which wouldn’t exist otherwise, pay into the Social Security Trust Fund making the total higher than it would be without the lower tax rate.
        •  These actuarial forecasts are projections. (0+ / 0-)

          Subject to revision. And if approached sagely,
          could be used to expand and increase benefits.

          Who here wouldn't jump at the chance to be for
          expanding and increasing the social safety nets
          for the first time in many decades. Isn't it needed?

          The future baselines are clear. The number of
          beneficiaires will approach unsustainability in
          the future at some point. As this author denotes,
          Social Security itself is not a deficit driver now.

          Most recipients are not just recipients of SS.
          They also get Medicare and Medicaid, or both.
          Along with food, housing, energy, and transportation
          subsidies which are all soon be on the chopping block.

          These 'issues', the conventional wisdomers, or
          villagers, as they are known locally, have been adopted
          for what appears, at times, to be conflicting ideologies.
          Regardless of their intent, this condition is
          readily exploitable in so many different ways.

          I think there are many reasons, both tactical
          and strategic, that democrats should actually
          be proactive about 'reforming' all of the safety
          net social programs. And by reforming, I absolutely
          mean expanding and increasing actual benefits.

          It would take very little to change an action slogan
          from 'save social security' to 'expand every safety net'.
          As the current debates clearly show, the actual facts
          and figures have a very small relation to the dialogue.
          Or its adoption and repetition by those who know better.

          This means we could, ostensibly make demands
          with a case for expansion of programs and increasing
          benefits, all while moderately adjusting the methods
          used to fund them and guarantee their futures.
          Yes, that means raising taxes on the well off!
          I will gladly pay more myself if it benefits all of my
          family, neighbors, community, and world.

          It only took a few thousand OWSers to completely
          change the dominant social and political narrative
          from the very same presently dominant meme.
          The case for economic justice has not disappeared.

          We have been given the perfect opportunity in disguise.
          The last elections proved that even massive
          economic inequality of resources can be defeated,
          or at least marginalized, with the proper leverage.

          Every time some one asks about 'debts or deficits,'
          reply with a human needs or a class based answer.
          99 % > 1%. Families. Sick. Disabled. Veterans. Elderly.
          Workers. Students. Personalize who and what you are for!

          If enough people respond to the 'fiscal crisis' in such
          a positive and proactive method, those who seek
          to exploit it against the vast majority of the rest of us
          will soon tire of its lack of impact and abandon it.
          We can still push for all of them after that occurs, too.

          It also has the benefit of being for something good,
          rather than the opposite of being against the bad,
          when they are both just two views of the same situation.
          I know which I would prefer to ally my time and efforts towards.

          Thanks for all of your efforts.

      •  There's a real simple fix for this. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Raise the upper limit on the payroll tax, so that more money goes into it.

        Social Security is more stably funded than just about anything else you can name.

        Also, payroll tax holidays are a bad idea, since the shortfall is made up out of the federal deficit.  This does allow people to say that SS contributes (however little) to the deficit.

        The hungry judges soon the sentence sign, And wretches hang, that jurymen may dine.

        by magnetics on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 01:24:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  why is SS not a separate issue? ... (0+ / 0-)

        ...Why is it on the deficit reduction table, when it adds ZERO, NOTHING, NADA to the deficit? One thing at a time. I can't multi-task. Can you? What on earth makes you think 535 members of Congress and 100 Senators can? I suggest we work on solving the deficit, then we'll deal with SS/Medicare. It's not in crisis mode, but the deficit is. SS/Medicare isn't going anywhere for awhile. We all know it's not about simple mathematics or arithmetic, don't we?

        "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way." John Paul Jones

        by ImpeachKingBushII on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 03:08:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I just saw my mom's SS statement (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JesseCW, magnetics, ImpeachKingBushII

    She gets about $440 a month, and her cost of living raise for next year comes to an extra 3 dollars per month.  And Republicans want to cut that?

    I don't know what's been trickling down, but it hasn't been pleasant---N. Pelosi

    by Russycle on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 11:21:41 PM PST

  •  Sorry, we youngest Boomers turn 67 later. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Charles CurtisStanley

    My birthdate was mid-December 1959. I don't get my Social Security benefits until I'm 66 years and 10 months old, which will be in October, 2026. Other youngest Boomers, such as President Obama, turn 67 later than that. Or are we "generation Jones" or some such and no longer considered part of the Boomers at all?

    Organ donors save lives! A donor's kidney gave me my life back on 02/18/11; he lives on in me. Please talk with your family about your wish to donate.

    Why are war casualty counts "American troops" and "others" but never "human beings"?

    by Kitsap River on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 01:36:50 AM PST

  •  2 questions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    Is the CBO including SSDI in this, or is it just strait SS?

    2}  Isn't it the Desability end of SS that has gone broke recently?

    I think that is the source of the difference of opinion.

    Teabaggers making the John Birch Society proud!

    by covertaccess on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 04:47:29 AM PST

  •  Maya Macguineas is trash (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anna in PDX

    I have been warning people about her bullshit for decades.  And fuck fareed Sakaria.  He is a younger version of David brooks.

    I am so sick of right wingers dominating the conversation in this country.  Social security is fine.  Chained CPI is unnecessary.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 08:17:35 PM PST

  •  Not a driver? By law it cannot add to the deficit! (0+ / 0-)

    From the CBO analysis of Social Security: "However, the Social Security Administration has no legal authority to
    pay scheduled benefits when they are due if their
    amounts exceed the balances in the trust funds.
    Therefore, if the trust funds became exhausted, it
    appears that payments to current and new beneficiaries would need to be reduced to make the
    outlays from the funds equal the revenues flowing
    into the funds."

  •  It happens that MSNBC is running a poll right now (0+ / 0-)

    asking wether Boehner coming back to Washington is a political move or a genuine attempt to fix the fiscal cliff....

    For anyone who wants to participate, it's here:is Boehner's move to reconvene sincere or not?

  •  social security has already been defined by 20 (0+ / 0-)

    years of RW radio that the left has not bothered to counter.

    sinking some truth and facts into that cesspool of BS that now passes for 'conventional wisdom' for way too big of a chunk of the population will require a lot of work. and it won't be possible without dealing with that primary radio problem.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 09:41:13 PM PST

  •  Social Security helps keep the economy humming. (0+ / 0-)

    Would do even better if we could change the COLA formula to help those at the lower end at least equally to those at the higher end when inflation is calculated.

  •  Strengthening Retirement (0+ / 0-)

    What these programs need is to correct for the past mistakes in wages. When people talk about Social Security being short of funds they never ask the most obvious question:


    The reason is because revenues for Social Security and Medicare are based on wages, and wages have declined. These programs are markers for wages. They are proxies.

    So, when you say that these programs are short of funds you are really just saying that workers are short of funds.

    To fix that problem you just have to fix wages. During the last few decades worker productivity has gone up more than 80%. Wages for non-supervisory workers have declined in real terms.

    Which means payroll taxes have declined in real terms.

    Whenever people talk about Social Security we need to talk about wages. This is the way to break this curse.

    So, the question to ask our politicians is this: How are we going to get wages back up?

  •  Many have little to no savings as retirement looms (0+ / 0-)
    Meanwhile, data show that many workers nearing retirement age have saved nowhere near the amount they need, and many have very little savings. More than half of all workers, 56%, say they have less than $25,000 in savings, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

    And the strain is already starting to show up as more American actually retire. More than half of retirees, 54%, report they have less than $25,000 saved. That's up dramatically from 2006, when 42% said they had less than that.

    For many Americans approaching retirement age, the increasing gap in savings is eroding confidence that retirement is even possible. Nearly 30% of workers of all ages surveyed aren't confident they'll have enough to retire, the highest level in the 21 years that EBRI has tracked the statistic. That means 36% of workers now expect to have to keep working after age 65, up from 20% in 2001.

    Not only are many Americans close to retirement age lacking savings, some are in the hole financially.
  •  Climate vs deficit (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    When it comes to the deficit, 2035 is right around the corner. Politicians are obsessed with averting the catastrophe that will supposedly take place in a generation from now.

    But climate? Forget it, we can keep kicking that can down the road forever.

    Our national priorities are stupid and suicidal.

  •  Seriously? (0+ / 0-)

    That Social Security doesn't contribute one cent to the debt is known by anyone remotely familiar with the program's finances.  It is funded by a separate payroll (FICA) tax and is considered "off budget."  Therefore, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the budget deficit (if one ignores interest paid on funds Social Security loans to the government to finance "on budget" deficits.)

    If I was a communist, rich men would fear me...And the opposite applies. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

    by stewarjt on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 03:32:52 AM PST

  •  Open up immigration with citizenship to the young. (0+ / 0-)

    Boost the number of young workers supporting older folks.

  •  My FAX to Congress and White House 12/27 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anna in PDX

    I am faxing the following to the White House, to Rep. Pelosi, to Sen. Reid, and to my Indiana delegation members of both houses of Congress. Note that I am now including this message as the reason for my currently unsubscribing myself from every last Democratic support group’s emails and lists.

    There is no “fiscal cliff”. This is an arbitrary accounting definition, and is meaningless in the context of the Constitution. The Constitution and its Amendments are absolutely clear. The United States cannot legally default on its debt. Further, we would not be so deeply in debt if the corporations and the wealthy were paying their fair share of taxes.

    After Obama’s betrayal of those who voted for him by putting Social Security and Medicare on the sacrificial altar to the 1%, I am done with the Democratic Party and Obama. I will never again donate to anyone, for any office.

    I have been betrayed for the last time. I am 66, I have paid into Social Security since I was 14. It is NOT PART OF THE DEFICIT! It is a trust fund, off budget. So is Medicare. I paid premiums by payroll my entire life into these INSURANCE programs.

    It is nothing but a lie and a sham to include them in any discussion of deficit reduction. Congress raided 1.6 trillion dollars from Social Security to cover the tax cuts for the super rich, while waging wars off the books. Despite that, the trust fund is still in the black, and will not go into any deficit mode for two decades, unless those who oppose government programs, as the GOP does, manage to destroy them, which is in fact their goal. This is why I will NEVER, EVER vote for a Republican, not even for dog catcher.

    Restore the taxes on the wealthy to rational levels, raise capital gains taxes, and tax every transaction in the stock market. End the tax cuts based on cutting payments going into the Social Security Trust fund. Every penny saved in that fund and Medicare makes them stronger. Cutting payments into them weakens them, and plays into the hands of those who would destroy the programs completely.

    It is better right now to just let the tax cuts on everyone expire December 31st. This current Congress, the most useless and dysfunctional in the history of the Republic, is incapable of passing rational legislation, anyway. John Boehner and the House GOP are a laughing stock, who do not even understand how legislation passes, and that all revenue bills originate in the House, not the Senate.

    Quit punishing the old and the poor to keep the super rich awash in their fabulous wealth. 400 people own as much as 50% of the lower half of Americans in terms of wealth. That’s 400 vs. 150 million. It is time to stop this obscenity. And many of them own corporations which are threatening to further abuse their employees by cutting their hours so they are not eligible for medical insurance under the AHA. I have with great pleasure read that Darden Restaurants, after taking this position, saw their quarterly profits drop 37%, as people boycotted them in disgust. Dear $DEITY, I love it when the Free Market bites back against the Corporate Oligarchy.

    As for the Democratic Party and Obama? I am through with this charade. I coughed up several hundred dollars for Obama’s and the House and Senate Democratic campaigns, despite my initial promise to myself not to do so. But Obama will forever be known as the Capitulator in Chief, for always caving instead of being a leader and standing firm for the principles of FDR and the now dead to me Democratic Party.

    As for the GOP, they are now a national laughing stock, as they have made it imminently clear the only things they care about are lining their own pockets with the rewards from the super wealthy for saving their tax cuts, and keeping them at levels that are the lowest in over 100 years. Meanwhile, they want to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, and the poor. The Simpson commission was very accurately renamed the “Make Granny Eat Cat Food” commission by the public.

    The tax cuts on the wealthy must be allowed to return to 39.5%. In addition, tax on capital gains should be raised to at least 20% or more immediately. And regulation of the banking and investment industry must be undertaken to end the current climate of corporate crime that is destroying America, and killing the Middle Class.

    "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there." “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” --Yogi Berra

    by HeartlandLiberal on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 04:45:17 AM PST

  •  "Fiscal cliff" traces back to banks' criminal acts (0+ / 0-)

    Much of this tracks back to the financial crimes that are just officially being acknowledged. . . .

    Also note that none of this “back story” is ever referenced in the reporting on the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations. It is rarely mentioned how much of the money owed is in interest due banks. We keep hearing reports about our economic woes without any discussion of what is behind it.

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 05:00:37 AM PST

  •  Why not quote the Gipper himself: "Social Security (0+ / 0-)

    has nothing to do with the deficit"

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