“In reality, the Social Security system has been paying out more than it takes in every year since 2010 and these annual deficits have totaled over $600 billion.
This means that benefits are currently being subsidized by taxpayers through the payment of IOUs that the rest of the U.S. government built up by raiding the Social Security trust fund to pay for decades of extravagant federal spending.”
In the 80-minute speech–the third longest State of the Union speech in history–not a single word was dedicated to Social Security or its rapidly approaching shortfall.
Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
It certainly wouldn’t be unheard of for a President to use this platform to draw attention to the problem. That’s exactly what George W. Bush did during his 2005 State of the Union:
“Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in … By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt.”
But as this article from the Washington Examiner notes, Bush’s 2042 estimate was rather optimistic. In reality, the Trust Fund’s coffers will be empty by 2034–we began paying out more than we collect in payroll taxes in 2010.
Working eight years ahead of schedule and with no policy in place to stop or at least delay the inevitable, it’s not unreasonable to expect the man who just two years ago said, “I’m going to save Social Security,” to have at least SOMETHING to say about our current situation.
But he didn’t. And that’s nothing if not unsurprising.
Politicians are notoriously loath to act on Social Security even as the Social Security Trustees beg Congress year after year to floor the accelerator on reforms.
At this point, it’s not hard to imagine our legislators hear “the sooner we act, the more options we’ll have and the longer we’ll have to phase them in” in their sleep.
But nothing is being done.
Most would say it’s just too volatile an issue. Our lawmakers don’t want to tangle with something so intrinsic to our country and our values–especially not before a potentially game-changing midterm election when partisan tensions are high.
Even if this wasn’t the case, proposals to alter Social Security are roundly met with extreme criticism from the public. Americans depend on Social Security. They’ve earned it. They feel ownership of it. When a legislator suggests changing the rules of the program, the public views it as a Congressman pulling their wallets from their pockets and making decisions with their money–it’s virtually the same thing.
But the Washington Examiner article reveals something else for us to consider. It’s the repayment of trillions in special issue Treasury bonds currently keeping benefit payments afloat. You know, “the payment of IOUs that the rest of the U.S. government built up by raiding the Social Security trust fund to pay for decades of extravagant federal spending.”
At the time Bush called for reforms to Social Security, the federal government still had five good years of surplus funds to take from the Trust Fund cookie jar. Now the jar is empty and the American people want that money back.
Is it a wonder our lawmakers are ignoring the problem?