Anna Turner is publicly calling out her friends for not bothering to learn what they have at stake in Social Security:
I don’t bring up Social Security much around my friends, probably because it’s not exactly the most riveting topic, but mainly because I know most of us in our twenties haven’t given our retirement much thought. In fact, when I finally did bring it up, it soon became clear that 1) almost nobody knew the basics, and 2) just about everybody thought Social Security wasn’t going to be around when they got older.
This might all be solved if we ever bothered to educate ourselves beyond what we “think” we know about one of the country’s oldest and most successful programs. Try to remember why you first thought Social Security wasn’t going to make it by the time you retire. Then do yourself a favor and find out for yourself. If you, did you might find out that Social Security is not in crisis, that the Social Security Administration already planned for the baby boomer retirees in 1983, or that Social Security’s long-run shortfall is small and easily manageable with reform. In a nutshell: an easy fix.
Myth 1: Social Security is going broke.
Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.3 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a ‘T’). It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever. After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits–and again, that’s without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers retirement decades ago. Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.
Myth 2: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.
Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than did 70 years ago. What’s more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly–since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half. But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.
Myth 3: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.
Reality: Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here’s a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share. If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come. Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income. But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.
Myth 4: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs
Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t full of IOUs, it’s full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market–which would have been disastrous–but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.
Myth 5: Social Security adds to the deficit
Reality: It’s not just wrong — it’s impossible! By law, Social Security funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can’t add one penny to the deficit.
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