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Social Security 2011 – Still going strong after more than 75 years

By Tom Guild

Mark Twain said, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Some alarmists in Congress claim that there is a “crisis” facing Social Security. They prove that Mark Twain is right many years after his death.

For 75 years, Social Security has provided a safety net for seniors and has given them peace of mind. Progressives have stopped right-wing attempts to privatize Social Security, which would expose the retirement funds of millions of Americans to catastrophic risk during financial instability.

By defeating these privatization attempts, no senior citizen has lost any money in risky investments of Social Security funds.

The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report for 2011 and updated its assessment on the current financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds.

The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2036. The DI Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2018. Congress needs to act and reallocate the payroll tax between the two trust funds, as Congress did in 1994. Making this simple change should be done quickly and without political drama.

• The combined trust funds will be exhausted in 2036 and at that time there will be sufficient non-interest income coming in to pay ~77% of scheduled benefits.
• Assets of the combined trust funds increased $69 billion in 2010, and now total $2.6 trillion.
• In 2010 an estimated 157 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
• Social Security paid benefits of $702 billion in 2010. There were ~54 million beneficiaries by year’s end.
• The combined trust funds assets earned 4.6% interest in 2010.
• The $6.5 billion cost to administer the program in 2010 was .9% of total expenditures.

The basic facts about Social Security are:

(1) Social-Security benefits are now fully paid with taxes workers and employers have paid into Social Security.
(2) When there is more than enough Social-Security tax money to pay retirees, the leftover money is put into a trust fund.
(3) The Social Security Trust Fund now contains more than $2.6 trillion ($2,600,000,000,000)!
(4) Social Security has enough money to pay all benefits through 2036.

Social Security is sound, highly beneficial and popular. It is a great program that is 100% solvent for the next 25 years. This is not a program that is broke or going broke. Any American would be overjoyed to have their personal bills covered for 25 years into the future.

Preserving and protecting Social Security should be a top priority for the President and for Congress! For 75 years, this program has more than earned its keep.

As the father of the Social Security Program President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

Note: Tom Guild is an emeritus university professor (University of Central Oklahoma) who lives in the MidTown area and is active in the Democratic Party.

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