The Social Security Board of Trustees has just released its annual report to Congress. And with the report comes the expected headlines predicting doom for our Social Security system. Thankfully, these headlines couldn’t be further from the truth. Social Security is in strong financial shape.
These scary headlines are the product of a decades-long, billionaire-funded, campaign to undermine confidence in Social Security.
Social Security Works was formed to counter that campaign. Thanks to your support, we bring the truth about Social Security far and wide. But this year’s reporting shows that we still have a lot of work to do. Can you chip in to spread the word?
The just-released Trustees Report shows that Social Security has an accumulated surplus of roughly $2.9 trillion. It further shows that at the end of the century, it will cost just 6.07% of GDP. That is a considerably smaller percentage of GDP than Germany, Austria, France and most other industrialized countries spend on their retirement, survivors and disability programs.
Unsurprisingly, because Social Security’s income and outgo are projected out so far—three quarters of a century—the Report projects a modest shortfall. (This is a much longer projection period than private pensions use and even more than most other countries use for their Social Security programs.)
According to the new report, Social Security is 100% funded for the next sixteen years, 93% funded for the next 25 years, 87% funded over the next 50 years and 84% funded for the next three-quarters of a century. There is no question that Congress can raise enough revenue to eliminate the projected shortfall. Indeed, we can afford to expand Social Security.
That brings us to the second misreporting we are likely to see. Along with that modest, unsurprising shortfall being the cause for breathless media reports about supposed collapse, the report was greeted with lamentations from many observers that Congress has no plan to address Social Security’s projected shortfall. That is incorrect.
Democrats have specific concrete plans that they stand behind. They plan not just to ensure that all promised benefits will be paid in full and on time for the foreseeable future, but to address our nation’s retirement income crisis by increasing Social Security’s modest benefits.
It is only Congressional Republicans who have no plans—at least that they are willing to publicly embrace. That is perhaps because (given that they reject requiring the wealthiest to pay more) their preferred “solutions” involve benefit cuts, which are overwhelmingly opposed by voters across the political spectrum, including Tea Partiers and the most conservative Republicans.
Democrats are moving forward with their plans. The Social Security 2100 Act, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), is one such bill. It has 203 cosponsors in the House of Representatives—over 85% of all Democratic representatives. Larson has held several hearings on the bill and intends to bring it to the House floor this spring.
Several other bills to protect and expand Social Security benefits have been introduced in the House and Senate, andnearly every 2020 presidential candidate serving in Congress is a member of the bicameral Expand Social Security Caucus.
Again, it is Republican politicians who have no plans that they are willing to stand behind. Not a single Republican this Congress has cosponsored any of the Social Security bills introduced by Democrats nor introduced one of their own.
Notwithstanding that none of the bills have Republican cosponsors, they are totally bipartisan—at least, by the measure that matters most. As divided as the American people are over many issues, we are not divided about our deep support for Social Security.
Just last month, on March 21, the Pew Research Center released a poll showing that 68% of those identified as Republican/Lean Republican believe that Congress should make no cuts to Social Security whatsoever. A year ago, in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, Public Policy Polling found that 56% of those who voted for Donald Trump and 55% of those who identify as Republican would be more likely to vote for a candidate who “supported expanding and increasing Social Security.”
Furthermore, a 2014 National Academy of Social Insurance survey found that 80% of Republicans believe that Social Security is more important than ever; 72% of Republicans responded that they “don’t/didn’t mind paying Social Security taxes;” and 65% of Republicans agreed that “we should consider increasing Social Security benefits.” You wouldn’t know the truth if you’re just listening to the corporate media.
And this bipartisan, consensus view of the American people is the right one. Social Security is a solution. It is a solution to our looming retirement income crisis, which threatens the retirement of so many of today’s working families. Social Security is a solution to the increasing economic squeeze on middle-class families, a squeeze which jeopardizes the economic security of all generations. And Social Security is a solution to the destabilizing and immoral income and wealth inequality, which has resulted in a handful of Americans richer than Midas, while most Americans find their economic security crumbling.
In light of these challenges and Social Security’s important role in addressing them, Democratic leaders—and the American people—are asking the right question: Not how can we afford Social Security, but, rather, how can we afford not to expand it?
It’s this mismatch between where the American people stand and the Wall Street-funded public debate that Social Security Works was founded to combat. Can you chip in to help us bring the American peoples’ voices to Washington DC?
Republican politicians are standing in the way. For those for whom Social Security provides basic economic security now or promises to do so in the future—that is, virtually all of us—what we must do is clear. In 2020, we must make our voices heard. Those office seekers who support expanding Social Security and restoring it to long-range actuarial balance must be voted into office. Those who don’t should be retired. Fortunately for them (and thanks to the rest of us) they will have their Social Security to fall back on.
President and co-founder
Social Security Works