August 8, 2010

THE REASONS TO REFORM IT AREN'T EXISTENTIAL:

The myth of the Social Security system's financial shortfall: The trust fund is in far better shape than critics admit. (Michael Hiltzik, August 8, 2010, LA Times)


The trustees indicated that the program has made it through the worst economic downturn in its life span essentially unscathed. In fact, by at least one measure it's fiscally stronger than a year ago: Its projected actuarial deficit over the next 75 years (a measurement required by law) is smaller now than a year ago.

The old age and disability trust funds, which hold the system's surplus, grew in 2009 by $122 billion, to $2.5 trillion. The program paid out $675 billion to 53 million beneficiaries — men, women and children — with administrative costs of 0.9% of expenditures. For all you privatization advocates out there, you'd be lucky to find a retirement and insurance plan of this complexity with an administrative fee less than five or 10 times that ratio.

This year and next, the program's costs will exceed its take from the payroll tax and income tax on benefits. That's an artifact of the recession, and it's expected to reverse from 2012 through 2014. The difference is covered by the program's other income source — interest on the Treasury bonds in the Social Security trust fund.

That brings us back to this supposed $41-billion "shortfall," which exists only if you decide not to count interest due of about $118 billion.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 8, 2010 7:26 AM
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