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There has been a diary on the rec list for quite some time, which presents a document along with an explanation.  The document clearly states that social security will not be solvent, yet the diarist mistakenly presents it as evidence that social security will be solvent.

In discussions of policy, it is critical to make sound arguments based on demonstrable facts.  This is especially true when trying to sway others who disagree with you: the best way is to present evidence that is hard to refute (and to engage and rebut the evidence presented against your point).

DKos is usually a good source of both information and analysis, but sometimes it's just embarassing.  I don't mind when diarists make mistakes - we all do.  But when our community as a whole fails to actually read a diary before collectively putting it on the reclist, it seems like a problem to me.  I guess this diary is just a request for you to use your reading skills before hitting "recommend"!

Just for reference, I'll post the document and explanation from the linked diary below the orange squirrely-whirly.

Here is the document cited:

The diarist has added the caption "The Trustees estimate that the trust fund will not be exhausted within the projection period."  They are focusing on footnote (b).  However, this footnote is not a description of the table as a whole, but simply describes what an entry of (b) in the table means.  In this case, there are only two entries labelled (b) in the table - under the low cost assumptions, DI and OASI will not be exhausted.  Under all other assumptions, all three funds will be exhausted, and even under the low cost scenario, OASDI will be exhausted.  The chart clearly says (in the row labelled "Trust fund exhausts in..." that the disability trust funds will be exhausted around 2015 and the old age and survivors insurance will be exhausted around 2030 (depending on whether you're making the low-cost, high-cost, or intermediate assumptions).

Again, my goal here is not to harp on the diarist, nor to argue either against or for his or her thesis.  I'm just pointing out that the evidence presented doesn't show what they claim, and asking you to apply your critical reading skills.

Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 1:29 PM PT: Based on the comments below, I've learned that the OASDI is an aggregation of other funds, and is commonly used as a summary of the whole "trust fund", so that it more accurate to say that the trust fund is only solvent in the low-cost scenario.

Originally posted to mdgeorge on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:34 PM PST.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for trying n/t (3+ / 0-)

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:51:05 PM PST

  •  You're right, you're right, I know you're right... (3+ / 0-)

    Sequestration? GOP=Family Values, my ass.

    by blueoregon on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 03:56:45 PM PST

  •  But what about the EMOTIONAL truth of it? (7+ / 0-)

    Huh? Isn't that so much more important than factual truth?

    "Every now & then your brain gifts you with the thought, 'oh, that's right, I don't actually give a **** about this.' Treasure it" -- jbou

    by kenlac on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 04:20:45 PM PST

    •  The diary title said it all (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sturunner, LeftHandedMan

      Stop it, stop saying Social Security needs reform, you are a Democrat, right?

      Of course people are emotional about it when Republicans have been hellbent for decades on destroying the middle class and too many Democrats wring their hands about not helping out in that process because they're called bad names. Or something.

      Alan Grayson would say the same thing... Stop saying it, but he can't sit here and babysit us all the time. He actually has to work at doing things we need done. Ditto with Sherrod Brown. Or any number of the Progressive Caucus folks.

      One may live without bread, but not without roses.
      ~Jean Richepin
      Bread & Roses

      by bronte17 on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 09:23:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I believe there's a trap here: (0+ / 0-)

        "Entitlement reform" has been a republican code phrase for "kill the New Deal" and screw the poor for a very long time now. This is leading the liberal side to believe that any tinkering or adjustments to the system is akin to aiding that destruction, by very definition.

        I admit I'm simply (a) not smart enough and (b) in no position to judge with any accuracy whether SS is sound, or about to collapse, or something in between. I do know that I find it hard to believe that it is perfect as it is, and should not be changed in any way. I'd like to be able to see sober, honest, and (most of all) trustworthy debate about the merits of individual proposals for change, but I fear that would be almost impossible to find in the current political climate, and I have most certainly given up hope of seeing such here on Daily Kos.

        "Every now & then your brain gifts you with the thought, 'oh, that's right, I don't actually give a **** about this.' Treasure it" -- jbou

        by kenlac on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 08:16:34 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  people like wishful thinking and conspiracies, (7+ / 0-)

    so that diary is naturally a home run.

  •  Yeah, in 2 of the 9 scenarios, the (3+ / 0-)

    money does not run out. In the other 7 scenarios, it does. If the diary implies anything different it is a bullshit diary. The Rec list typically consists of a few good diaries and a few bullshit ones, so nothing is really amiss here.

    •  Poor reading skills (0+ / 0-)

      There are not "nine scenarios", there are only three. Similarly there are not three different Trust Funds, there are only two.

      That is you and the diarist are making the same mistake you are (not unfairly) accusing Roger of.

      The three scenarios are Low Cost, Intermediate Cost, and High Cost, the two Trust Funds are OASI (Old Age/Survivors Insurance) and DI (Disability Insurance).

      Now for reasons of convenience and because historically it has been easier to shift funds between Trust Funds than to raise overall FICA rates it is typical to consider OAS and DI together as "THE Social Security Trust Fund" "OASDI". But at ground level there is no such thing.

      What the table shows is projections of the two ACTUAL Trust Funds plus the CONVENTIONAL combination of them under three scenarios which by the higher math 3 x 3 gives nine columns. Not nine scenarios.

      Perhaps you might consider the beam in thy own eye prior to condemning the mote in Rogers. - SocSec.Defender at - founder DK Social Security Defenders group - (hmm is there a theme emerging here?)

      by Bruce Webb on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 06:57:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's not a matter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of not reading it.  It's a matter of not being able to make heads or tales out of the chart when it was spaced over several breaks in the screen, utilized numerous undefined abbreviations, and seemed to contradict what the diarist was saying.  Now, since I'm not a graphically-oriented person and OFTEN have problems interpreting charts that make it easier for neurotypicals, I tend to focus on the text and leave the pretty pictures for those who have problems making sense out of grammatically-complete sentences.

  •  OK, let's take a look at this word: (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisePiper, sturunner, DBunn, badger, Ahianne


    In what year do Social Security payouts to recipients fall to zero = no payouts whatsoever?

    Here's the table again for ready reference:

    Answer:  In no year, under none of the scenarios, do Social Security payouts reach zero.  In fact, the worst they fall in this set of projections by year 2086 - estimates based on current knowledge and forecasts - is 51% in one scenario.  All other scenarios are higher, including levels of 72, 73, 80, 99, 100 & 100% in 2086.  

    Personally, to me, this data does not show that payouts fall to zero, therefore the concept of the earlier diary is plausible.  

    Now, let's talk about Rec's. Just me, personally, "rec" means "here's something worth discussing."  It doesn't mean "the last factual word on earth" to me.  

    No one person holds a solid grip of "truth," so let's just take it easy with each other, discuss what we think and allow for the fact that the same facts can be perceived in many different ways by different people.  "Falsifier" is, in my mind, a little harsh to use in this circumstance.

      "obviously false diaries?" An argument could be made that this statement qualifies as well:

    The document clearly states that social security will not be solvent, yet the diarist mistakenly presents it as evidence that social security will be solvent.
    Personally, I disagree with the bolded conclusion being precisely what the document indicates.  Benefits can still be paid out under all circumstances, only at reduced levels.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 07:16:56 PM PST

    •  a fund is exhausted when there is no money in it (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan, FG, sturunner

      I agree...after the exhaustion dates, Social Security will still be able to pay out what it's taking in. It will never hit zero as long as there's anyone paying fica taxes, so I'm not sure that inability to pay out any benefits whatsoever is a meaningful definition of solvent.  I think google has a better definition of "solvent": "Having assets in excess of liabilities; able to pay one's debts." By this definition, my statement was accurate.

      Moreover, the diary I referred to does not make the kind of nuanced argument you seem to be imparting it with. If the diary said "social security will be capable of paying some percentage of benefits" that would be one thing. But it is full-throated in its insistence that there are no problems whatsoever, and the diarist was clearly interpreting footnote b as the conclusion, rather than a description of an entry in the table.

      You make a reasonable point about recs, and to be fair I'm a longtime lurker, so I'm not familiar with the ins and outs of the rec system.  That said, modulo a few exceptions, the commenters in that diary also seemed to take the claims at face value.

      •  I'd call myself solvent if I'd (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, YucatanMan

        spent all of my savings but still had a reliable weekly paycheck. And a lot of solvent people are in that situation.

        And in fact even with the trust fund at zero, Social Security will still be able to pay its legal obligations, because the Supreme Court has already ruled that beneficiaries of SS are not entitled to a specific level of benefits. So by your definition, it, in fact, remains solvent.

        Whether possible benefit cuts should be allowed to happen is a different issue from solvency. I'd say they shouldn't happen - I'd prefer we create a lot more better paying jobs so that more SS taxes are collected. Even simpler is eliminating the cap on contributions.

        Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

        by badger on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 10:28:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Congress has reallocated assets (0+ / 0-)

      between OAS and DI before, the OASDI column represents a number that shows there is enough money to cover both OAS and DI, thru 2090.

      I spent until midnite answering questions and responding to comments, not one of them was from mdgeorge. I gave him a detailed explanation below.

      ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS 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 Mar 06, 2013 at 06:27:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did this diarist even attempt to communicate... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbob, Roger Fox

    ...with the author of the other diary before posting THIS diary? It doesn't look like it, at least as far as this diarist's comments are concerned? Did the author of THIS diary email or otherwise try to communicate with the other diarist outside of the community?

    I hope the answer's "yes," at least to one of my questions, otherwise I'm wondering what's the intent here?

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 08:33:41 PM PST

    •  I did not. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sturunner, bobswern, jbob, SoCalSal

      Perhaps I should have; I very rarely post so I'm sorry if I broke etiquette.

      That said, my goal in posting this diary was to ask the community to read a little more carefully, not to challenge the diary in question. It doesn't really bother me that the diarist made a mistake in interpreting the chart. It bothers me that so many people uncritically accepted the diary without even looking at the chart. I mean, the diarist helpfully put the chart right didn't even have to click through a link!

      •  Well... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jbob, Ahianne, Roger Fox

        ...this is somewhat of a real-time environment. Every so often, in the comments in my own posts, I'll read a legitimate correction (I generally get a bit more abuse than some/many of the other diarists because of my criticism of the economic policies of the administration; so, it's important to separate the crap from the legitimate commentary, however) regarding an error or similarly legitimate issue with something I've posted, and it's quite helpful. And, I appreciate that type of thing and modify my posts accordingly. Then there are others in the community that will do what you just did, and it's almost always related to something subjective (in the first place).

        However, in this situation, I'm pretty familiar with the other diarist's work; and, I've found him to be quite erudite, sincere, knowledgable, and a decent person, as far as their activities in this community are concerned. So, I'm thinking maybe you should rethink your approach? (Assuming they're not too upset at the way you started out attempting to "correct" the matter, in the first place.)

        Anyway, I hope you'll take this comment (both of my comments here in your post) in the positive light in which I'm attempting to convey it? And, yes, I realize (see) you haven't participated much in open dialogue here, although you've been around for quite awhile. So, I kind of get your "drift," in that regard, as well.

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Tue Mar 05, 2013 at 10:12:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Lawmakers have reallocated OAS & DI ratios (0+ / 0-)

          previously, the OASDI column represents a theoretical reallocation, showing there are enough assets to pay both OAS & DI thru 2090.

          More detail in my comment directly below.

          ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS 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 Mar 06, 2013 at 05:45:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I felt you were considering only the chart (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roger Fox

        The words in that diary were trying to convince readers that there is no need to cut benefits. The diarist may have misread the chart results. They might have been using the outside chance that the funds will remain solvent without action to make a point. That point being there is a real danger of politicians cutting benefits in the very near future. Also that we need to keep after our Congress critters to make sure it doesn't happen.

      •   lawmakers could reallocate (0+ / 0-)

        the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI, as they have done in the past.

        This is where the OASDI column comes into play, its purely theoretical, but it shows that the one fund can cover the others obligations. In fact OASDI grows larger from the 2070's on.

        So yes, in the low cost scenario SS is good thru 2090.

        Assuming 2.8% GDP, workforce growth of .7% thru 2050 Bureau of Labor and Statistics says .7% thru 2050, without Immigration reform/Amnesty, which would add more legal workers, more FICA.

        The intermediate scenario assumes workforce growth  drops from 1.0% to .5% in 10 years. No one, The Presidents Council of Economic Advisors, the CBO, the BLS predicts such a dramatic drop. The High cost scenario assumes about .2%.

        The intermediate and high cost scenarios assume 2.1% GDP growth and about 1.4%, respectively. Those are pretty extreme assumptions, representing the biggest economic downturn since the Black Plague killed half the humans on the planet, 2008 thru 2033, a 25 year recession.

        Personally I would be worrying about getting a good crop in the garden, then about getting a SS retirement check if it gets that bad. Only the richest would be able to afford cars or gas, cell phones, internet etc.

        You could have asked. I spent till midnite answering questions and responding to comments.

        ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS 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 Mar 06, 2013 at 05:43:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Low Cost vs Intermediate Cost: Bigger Picture (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    I was not comfortable with how Roger presented this chart but withheld criticism because there is a much bigger issue more or less concealed here, that is of the actual probability of Intermediate Cost.

    One question is whether Intermediate Cost is and has been too pessimistic both in the short run and in its future projections. And there is absolutely no question that Intermediate Cost numbers low-balled near term numbers in the 1997 to 2005 Report Years with the result that dates of Trust Fund exhaustion were pushed back from 2026 (1996 Report) to 2041 (2005 Report). Moreover actual performance of the economy in those years actually exceeded Low Cost numbers, supposedly sitting at the outside of the probability spread.

    There is also no question that economic projections under Intermediate Cost were substantially more pessimistic than those of the so-called Washington Consensus and even more so when compared with the promises of the Supply Siders in relation to Bush tax cuts. If we had even a large portion of the promised growth gains they predicted then we would have blown the doors off of even Low Cost numbers.

    The story became substantially more mixed as the actual results of Bushonomics came in and Trust Fund progress first stalled and then reversed after 2006. But the case against Low Cost and what I call Low Cost Plus is NOT closed, particularly if we targeted policy in ways that served to boost rather than undercut Real Wage.

    So nit-picking Roger over the details of this Table is at one level justified (though vitiated by reading errors of the critics themselves) but really misses the bigger picture of whether current Scheduled Benefits are in fact achievable. Short answer:

    Yes they are. Either via revenue boosts or by policy targeting or of course some combination. Or just by the economic numbers in re productivity and wages reverting to the historical mean (see Dean Baker on this). Or as Dave Johnson and Bob B and others insisted in the pushback on Bush in 2005.

    There Is No Crisis. And that IS the Big Picture. - SocSec.Defender at - founder DK Social Security Defenders group - (hmm is there a theme emerging here?)

    by Bruce Webb on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 07:19:53 AM PST

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