Rob Knight

Social Security

February 08, 2005

Listen up twenty-somethings...according to a Newsweek poll taken after the president's state of the union speech last week, we think Social Security won't be able to pay us when we retire. So let's have storytime and get the facts straight.

Social Security has provided a safety net for retiring Americans for more than 70 years.

In 1983, Congress passed the Social Security Act of 1983 which increased the amount of money taken from workers' paychecks. The Social Security Administration created a trust fund from the surplus in preparation for the retirement of the baby-boom generation in the early 2000's.

The trust fund money has been used to cover federal budget shortfalls for the last 22 years. In the place of actual money, the trust fund contains government treasury bills (bonds). Government treasury bills are sold to foreign countries to cover the deficit every year. Many nations throughout the world invest in government treasury bills because they are considered rock solid investments (the U.S. government has never defaulted).

It is estimated that if the money taken from the Social Security Trust Fund is replaced (not replacing the treasury bills with the owed money would be defaulting) Social Security could meet 100% of annual benefit payments to retirees until sometime in the 2040's.

By contrast, diverting money from the Social Security system into private investment accounts reduces Social Security's long-term solvency considerably. The president's proposal is fiscally irresponsible and, by his own admission will increase the deficit significantly in the next 20 years.

If each of us took 5% from each paycheck and cautiously invested it, we could retire comfortably at 65 and receive Social Security checks too. We don't need to wreck Social Security in order to "fix" it.