August 18, 2015

5 facts about Social Security

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 14th August 1935. (Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on Aug. 14, 1935. (Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law 80 years ago this month, he said that while “[w]e can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life … we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

In the decades since then, Social Security has developed into one of the most popular federal programs, though that popularity is tempered by concern over its long-term financial outlook. In a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, for instance, 50% of Gen Xers and 51% of Millennials said they believed they would receive no Social Security benefits at all by the time they’re ready to retire. Earlier this year, 66% of Americans said taking steps to make Social Security financially sound should be a top priority for President Obama and Congress this year, placing it fifth among 23 issues asked about.

SDT-next-america-03-07-2014-2-08But any reform plan entailing cuts to benefits likely would face an uphill battle for public support. The 2014 Pew Research survey also found large majorities across all generations agreeing that Social Security benefits shouldn’t be reduced; even among Millennials, the generation furthest from retirement, only 37% said future benefit reductions should be considered.

There’s often considerable confusion as to just how Social Security works, which is perhaps not surprising given the program’s complexity. (The original 1935 Social Security Act was 29 pages long; the current law, much amended and expanded, runs nearly 2,600 printed pages.) Here’s a primer on the program:

1Social Security touches more people than just about any other federal program. At the end of 2014, according to the most recent trustees’ report, some 59 million Americans were receiving retirement, disability or survivors’ benefits from the system; the total cost was $848.5 billion. 166 million people paid payroll taxes into the system.

2Social Security is, and always has been, an inter-generational transfer of wealth. The taxes paid by today’s workers and their employers don’t go into dedicated individual accounts (although 32% of Americans think they do, according to the 2014 Pew Research survey). Nor do Social Security checks represent a return on invested capital, though you might be forgiven for thinking so since the “personalized Social Security statements” that used to be mailed out once a year and now are available online detail your payment history and projected monthly benefits. Rather, the benefits received by today’s retirees are funded by the taxes paid by today’s workers; when those workers retire, their benefits will be paid for by the next generation of workers’ taxes (caveat: see Point 3). Your benefit amount is based on your earnings history and age at retirement, not on how much you and your employer paid in Social Security taxes (although for most people, taxes paid are closely tied to their earnings).

3Right now, Social Security has plenty of assets. For much of its history, Social Security was a strictly pay-as-you-go system, with current tax receipts funding current benefits. That changed in 1983, when Congress (as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the program) raised the payroll taxes that provide the bulk of Social Security’s revenue, to build up a cushion for the coming onslaught of Baby Boomer retirees. For nearly three decades, the system took in far more revenue than it paid out in benefits; the surplus was invested in special non-tradeable Treasury bonds, with interest credited to the system’s two trust funds (one for old-age and survivors’ benefits, the other for disability payments). As of July 31, those trust funds together held $2.83 trillion in Treasuries. (Some people characterize that as the government “borrowing from” or “raiding” Social Security, but the system is in essentially the same position as any other investor who buys Treasuries.)

4But since 2010, Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts. Negative cash flow last year was about $74 billion, according to the latest trustees’ report, and this year the gap is projected to be around $84 billion. While the credited interest on all those Treasuries is still more than enough to cover the shortfall, that will only be true until 2020. After that, Social Security will begin redeeming its hoard of Treasuries for cash to continue paying benefits – as was the plan all along.

Social Security5Social Security’s combined reserves likely will be fully depleted by 2034, according to the trustees’ intermediate forecast. The disability-insurance trust fund could run dry as soon as the end of 2016, while the old-age and survivors’ fund is expected to be depleted in 2035 – assuming it’s not tapped to backfill the disability fund. (The Congressional Budget Office, in a separate report that uses somewhat different demographic assumptions, projects that the disability fund will be exhausted in fiscal 2017 and the old-age and survivors’ fund in calendar 2031; if the funds are combined, they would be exhausted in calendar 2029.) The exact depletion dates depend, of course, on future demographic and economic trends. After the reserves are exhausted, the system still will be receiving tax revenue, but it will only be enough to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits – unless Congress changes the benefit formulas, raises the payroll tax, or makes other changes such as raising the cap on taxable wage income (currently $118,500).

Note: This is an update of an earlier post originally published on Oct. 16, 2013.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Retirement, Generations and Age, Government Spending and the Deficit

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous1 year ago

    I am in favor of the George W. Bush plan. You should be able to choose what happens to your money. I would rather use mine to build a fire with than give it to the government. At least I would get some use out of it.

  2. Anonymous1 year ago

    go after the WEALTHY not our VETS, Seniors and Disabled. they are hurting now; last yr a 1.7 percent increase which is about Twenty Five Dollars a month. and NOTHING this year inflation keeps going up. Back in the 60’s and 70’s before the GOP took over Congress, seniors, vets and disabled got 17.5 percent. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH WE CANNOT AFFORD TO HAVE CONGRESS AT THE HELM NO LONGER, THEY ARE KILLING US OFF ONE BY ONE. TIME FOR BERNIE SANDERS…………………WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH. STOP THE MADNESS.

  3. Anonymous1 year ago

    When calculating the depletion of reserves how specifically is the death rate of baby boomers accounted for in these numbers?

  4. Anonymous1 year ago

    it seems obvious that our government no longer serves the needs of her citizens its obvious even to the citizen who has never left their village that our government now serves the demands of the corporations and their servant the us congress ,senat, judiciary department and the administration,as Thomas Jefferson stated after signing the deceleration of independence and composing the constitution,to maintain the tenets of our constitution in good faith we as a people would need a new revolution about every twenty years,after serious consideration of of the nature of man and governments he believed our government would be corrupt in about twenty years ,these are facts from our history as was spoken by the founding fathers,time has proven them to be absolutely is a sad day for a nation that started out with so much promise of being an honorable , just, fair and impeccable servant of its citizens.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Did you graduate high school?

      1. The Buddy Lama1 year ago

        ^ Did you?
        “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
        —Thomas Jefferson

        “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?” —Thomas Jefferson

        “The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship — on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror — must be the result.”
        —Ulysses S. Grant

        The “Tree of Liberty” letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Smith – Paris, November 13, 1787:…

  5. Anonymous1 year ago

    Why has the government never paid back social security

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      It has and it does, routinely, as the notes become due.

    2. Anonymous1 year ago

      You should go back and reread #4 and then reread it again, until you get it.

  6. Melissa Nelson1 year ago

    Since it is well known (or should be), that our military funding is grossly bloated, even when the military states they have more than enough funds for our nation’s defense, we still throw more money at it. We also give vulgar amounts of subsidies to corporations unnecessarily. Why is it then, that we can’t (or won’t I should say), stop these needless, wastings of money and use those much needed funds to bolster our social security program, disability fund, etc., etc.? It seems more than simple. Oh, that’s right. We can’t get the people we elected, and pay (paychecks and insurance for LIFE), to do what’s best for us. They’re too busy making sure they get theirs. Congress needs a giant enema! I, for one, am disgusted and embarrassed by my own government. NOW we have reddened our collective faces yet again, by running the likes of Donald Trump for leader of the free world. God, the universe and any powers that be, please save us. Should he win, we will repeat the history of Rome, fire included. We seem to be circling the drain as it is.

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      Spot on Melissa,Kudos.

    2. Marty Johnson1 year ago

      Just because the military budget is higher doesn’t mean all of the money in the budget gets spent. In fact defense spending only consumes 17% of the debt. Social Security alone consumes 25% and Healthcare 28%. That’s the current spending from the federal government.…
      Official statistics from the GAO above ^^^
      Also what money would you like to be put toward bolstering our Social Security program? We’re broke. And the reduction of spending needed to save our economy is higher than the total percentage of defense spending so even if the whole military were to be slashed (impossible) spending would still need to be greatly reduced. So take your pick, either healthcare or Social Security.. or perhaps both?

    3. Anonymous1 year ago

      And Obama is the answer?

    4. The Buddy Lama1 year ago

      Not spot on, Melissa, just leftist drivel.
      First off, from its inception SS has been a Ponzi scheme. The first recipients of SS funds contributed little or nothing into the “system” — it was never “pay as you go”!

      Secondly, THEE primary purpose of our federal government is to provide for the national defense and maintain our military forces to secure that Constitutional directive. If as a nation we are not secure from enemies, both foreign and domestic, then nothing else matters because it will all collapse or be taken from us.

      End ALL welfare, including corporate welfare, and start indicting all those green corporations that took Billions of taxpayer dollars and promptly went out of business. Indict and imprison all the politicians that facilitated these crimes, toss them all in the same cells as their corporate cronies until they can be tried and hanged.

      Another constitutional directive to government is to insure Domestic Tranquility, but the current administration is doing the exact opposite by fomenting class warfare and racism. This entire administration are criminals, thugs, tyrants and traitors — charge them under Article 3.

      No where in the Constitution is Congress or the Executive empowered to penalize or incentivize ANY social behavior or economic behavior, or to meddle in health care, insurance, capital investments, or business, or labor, or education, or anything else beyond those obligations explicitly enumerated. All of these things are unconstitutional, illegal and therefore criminal. Treat them as such.

      Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure, and taxation is theft. FU

  7. Vic Volpe1 year ago

    You are right on about Social Security. But actually I think the Post Office touches more Americans of all types than Social Security. I have lived in big cities and very small villages (less than 1000 people) and you can usually find a post office in your community.

  8. Anonymous1 year ago

    If social security contributions by employer and employee increase from 12 to 15% as the baby boomers enter the system..(10,000/wk apply for benefits) by 2025 93 % of that group will bedrawing from and not contributing to the system..the 21-50 group with the increase should be able to float the system.What the system needs to do is remove those that have no right to be on the system at all..which account for near 1million unjustified reciepents who never contributed and therefore STEALING from the system!!

    1. Vic Volpe1 year ago

      Can you identify those who you are talking about, that receive Social Security benefits but did not contribute? You wouldn’t mean widows, orphans? Foreigners receive SS benefits, but then they paid into it. Illegal aliens who paid into SS with a false account number don’t receive SS benefits.

  9. Adam Bray1 year ago

    I think that for Social Security to remain viable, the funding source is going to have to change. I think a portion of the funding source can remain wage income, however as the economy continues to automate and fewer and fewer people are working and possibly for less and less money the fund will be depleted for those working now and hoping for social security. Also, with the US population either remaining stable or even going down over the next 50 years, the funding mechanism for SS just isn’t adequate. I believe that we need to be looking at different funding mechanisms that take into consideration the trends we are seeing now. I think what is going to be needed is a tax on wealth, similar to a property tax. The assets everyone holds, will be taxed at certain rates depending on overall size to fund SS.

    1. Karl Seel1 year ago

      IT WOULD be solvent if the greedy Government did not steal almost 3 trillion dollars from it… it is OURS. We paid into it for 50 years… if you took the 15% of the money you and your employer put into it for 50 years.. and placed it in a savings account, you would have more money than you would receive in montly government checks.

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        You are absolutely correct. I’ve run the numbers in great detail and you would be much, much better off if you could keep only 1/3 of the money that was contributed by you and your employer. My model assumed that the funds were deposited into a balanced mutual fund that represented a stock/bond mix of
        65/35. Retirement benefit at 60 would be more than what I look to receive from SS at 67 and that’s interest only, never touching the principal.

  10. Roberto Murillo1 year ago

    You are all wet regarding SS. What about all the trillions the government has taken from the SS surpluses which if combined since L. B. Johnson till present days are in the neighborhood of about 10 trillion dollars plus interests?

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      I don’t think you understand the system. The 2.8 trillion surplus in the SS Trust fund counts the money invested(or as you say, taken) in the federal government which will all be paid back to the trust fund as it needs it….

      1. Columbus11521 year ago

        Unfortunately………. That will need to be paid for from the federal budget. We will still be paying for the borrowing (theft) of the past.

    2. Vic Volpe1 year ago

      If you check the SS reports that come out each year (around July) you will see that approximately $100 billion gets paid back to the SS Trust Fund in interest on those loans and that the loans are eventually redeemed.

    3. Anonymous1 year ago

      I agree with Murillo, you are all all wet regarding SS. What about all the trillions the government has taken from the SS surpluses which if combined since L. B. Johnson till present days are in the neighborhood of about 10 trillion dollars plus interests?
      How allowed/gave the leaders of this country to use our money, our SS, to pay the national debt!!! Who gave you permission to use our hard earned money that suppose to help us in old age to pay the national debt?!

      1. Melissa Nelson1 year ago

        Exactly. They used it as their own personal piggy bank after they mismanaged every dime of what we had already given them!

  11. Anonymous1 year ago

    I prayed my entire life that I would never have to end up on SSDA … As I had 2 brothers that had to go on it out of 4 and back then growing up I thought it was just another form of Welfare but I was glad it was there for them when they needed it as they were in the situations where they clearly needed for at least a short time until rehabilitation or treatment for their issues could be assessed for their different issues. When it came time later in life and a situation arose my husband applied for me to get it…I wouldn’t apply for it. He fought for mine and I am blessed to have received it although I feel it dampered my moving forward in my life as i needed other rehabilitation for what I was going through. It was a fast fix and Social Security Will go broke eventually if they would have stayed on that road. I know they have came a long way…I may sound a bit counterdicting because now I really do need the funds and I’m glad I have them to fall back on. At one point I think i could have found help and made it back to work and i really wish I would have. Just a long lesson in life learned and I believe this is how the politicians have unfortunately and fortunately too have had to learn over the years.

  12. Ralph Spyer2 years ago

    Since the country has been in a state of war for the last 74 years we have quite a few veterans on social security ,be a vetnam vet it would be stupid to steal my social security without first taking all the gun out of there hands

  13. Kachina Lively2 years ago

    I am one of those American citizens that will never see any benefits from Social Security. As a stay-at-home Mom and Grandmother I do not have the proper qualifications. I read articles of how our Presidents have raided Social Security. Clinton left office with a surplus and Bush Jr. raided trillions, which, will one day hurt those that paid in all their lives. I kept hearing Bush Jr. state he wanted Social Security privatized. I understand why, now. Those we trusted and depended upon the most have betrayed us the most. Point is with the frightening high cost of living we see today what will it be like for our grandchildren and great=grandchildren? How can they possible save enough to retire on? I see a trend that is extremely disturbing for the poor, weak, sick and old. I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel for myself or future generations. I do not see our Politicians giving US any solutions, either. These days their focus seems to be on refugee’s and illegal immigrants and foreign aid more than US. I see citizens screaming to stop ‘entitlements’ but I do not think they understand what they are saying. From children to Vets to Seniors, sick and dying and poor all depend on the welfare system to survive along with Social Security. What will happen to them? I do not look forward to living in a Tent City with Millions of others. Protect the Poor the Sick and the Old..they paid their way, too.

  14. Steve Juniper2 years ago

    I have concluded that if that $118,500 cap on taxable SS income, and the 100% SS & Medicare ‘unearned income’ taxation exemption were eliminated, sufficient ADDITIONAL income would be produced to fully fund a single-payer national health care system for all Americans (“Medicare for ALL”) and, if drug company, insurance company and medical care overcharging was reduced, the overall tax rate could be less. Can you give me an idea about how much more income would result?

  15. Keith Campbell2 years ago

    Nice job.
    In addition to the above, Social Security benefits do not affect then yearly U S Government
    expenditures shown in the Budget because Social Security is paid from an independent source.
    Also the Special Treasury Bonds held by the Social Security Trust Fund are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.
    Keith S. Campbell
    Denver, Colorado

  16. Savannah H2 years ago

    Ok… I’m 21, about to graduate college in May.
    I’ve been hearing lots of talk about SS running out by the time I retire. I can’t even imagine where my life will be by then, but I’m a planner and proper preparation prevents poor performance. It seems like many of you here in the comments are smart and have read the article and are well-informed in this topic.
    So any tips for me? Should I start saving for retirement when I get my first job post graduation? Best to just put it in the savings account or open a special retirement account? Resources?

    Sorry if I sound dumb, but for whatever reason the school system felt it wasn’t important enough to teach us about social security so I know next to nothing!

    Thank you all!

    1. Dorothy2 years ago

      I’m a 65 year old retired female. For what it’s worth, you can save your money yourself. Don’t assume the government has your best interests in mind. They borrowed or bond out my money now. And 1.7% increase this year adjusted for inflation. I advise my son to do the math.. He saves $25/ week that’s $1300/ year. Working for 50 years is $65,000. $50/ week is $130,000 after 50 years. Plus interest from the bank back into your account. Save, save, save! $25/ week is doable.

    2. James2 years ago

      Savannah H

      Social Security will be there for you. However, it is a minimum for survival and you don’t want to live at that level when you are “retired.” There are different ways to save. One other one is a Roth IRA. Another is a 401K. These things were created to stifle the fear that SS would run out of money. They are totally legal and great investment opportunities.

      The subject here is Financial Planning. And any good Financial Plan has life insurance at its root. Depending on your living expenses, you should pay yourself first, or save money for retirement. It is possible to retire early by setting financial independence as a goal. All Financial Planners are working from the same template +/-. Any differences are irrelevant and should not put you into the trance of “the paralysis of analysis.”

      1. Anonymous1 year ago

        When a couple is getting a divorce and one party has govermental insurance is the other party still required to obtain insurance for them through their work

    3. Anonymous1 year ago

      Hi Savannah H,
      It appears that your you are one smart gal. I can only speak to what I have been taught and what has worked for me. I am debt free and baring any more major health issues, I will be OK in retirement!
      I was taught to start saving just as soon as I had a job, in fact, I followed the 10-10-80 program as early as 14.
      I later learned that I needed to build, as quickly as I could, an emergency savings account of $1,000.00. Do NOT touch this account unless someone has just gotten 2 million stitches (lol).. FYI an emergency is NOT the Boot Barn bogo sale. 🙂
      Once I had the emergency fund built, 10% of my pay went to Savings – part of that amount went into my emergency account until I had 3 to 4 times my monthly expenses saved up. Then the full 10% went into a separate passbook savings account BTW, company Credit Unions are awesome – they have additional perks AND it was taken right out of my check! I didn’t see it, therefore didn’t really miss it . When I was eligible for my retirement account, it was also through payroll deduction. My company matched dollar to dollar, so I put away the maximum amount possible. For example, I was allowed to deduct 5% of each check and the company matched it. The other 5% (remember, I was saving 10%) then went into my credit union account.
      Now, the second 10% – I was taught to gift or thithe to my church. There are other charitable institutions that you can send your 10% to. Outside of my church, I have a couple of local favorites and The Wounded Warrior Project is my favorite national group.
      At this point I have 80% left over to live on. You will be amazed at how easy it becomes as you learn to work within this plan. Remember, almost all of my take home pay is “mine” to live on.
      You can learn more by simply doing a web search for the 10-10-80 rule or Dave Ramsey or Crown Financial, How to Live on a Budget…and Still Have a Life. There are free budgeting tools from on the web from .gov sites to and I stopped counting at 50 apps in the Google Play Store.
      Happy researching and
      profitable saving

    4. Anonymous1 year ago

      Do not put your momey into the US government. Avoid SS taxes at all costs. Invest in Roth IRAs.

    5. Anonymous1 year ago

      401 ks and the likes will help supplement your retirement. There should be an ss program still, but you need to supplement it. Do the math. 25 years of retirement equalls how much per year in supplemental income? Start at 350, 000 in savings ÷25 years ÷12 months.

    6. Anonymous1 year ago

      Invest in 401k if employer offers it . Or Ira if not. Put the most you can and feel comfortable with. Put it into stocks early in your career,but don’t look to see how they are doing regularly as they will fluctuate wildly at times and you will make yourself sick just watching it. The closer you get to retirement put it all in something safer,like bonds. It never hurts to invest in a little gold or silver (metals. Don’t put into gold or silver bonds. Don’t think about retiring until your house is paid for as well as the the majority of your other possessions. Good luck. Your education will hopefully be your best investment.

    7. Anonymous1 year ago

      Social Security is and was meant to be a “safety net”, not a retirement account. Even if all the funding problems are solved, you will be hard pressed to live on Social Security alone. So the answer to your question is yes, start saving immediatly (or at the earliest possible time). Save 10 – 15% of your income if you can, but no matter what the %, save for retirement. You will need it.

    8. Columbus11521 year ago

      Savannah, you give me faith in the generations to come, I think it’s fantastic you are paying attention to your future. You’ve been given a lot of good advice, so I won’t repeat, but if I may add, stay on top of the issue. Don’t let politicians turn your future and your generation’s future into a political quagmire. They would love nothing else than to relinquish responsibility of SS to someone else and make the problem go away. Even if you look at the current statistics of a prosperous boomer generation, more than half have no retirement plan in place, if not for SS there would be many more people 100% on assistance, and that is NOT sustainable. Tell your representatives SS must remain solvent, and tough choices must be made, otherwise get out of the way and let someone else do the job.

    9. Anonymous1 year ago

      See if you job has a compensation plan that you can put in for retirement. It’s put in before you taxes come out, it great you can put whatever percentage of your paycheck. It adds up good. You can also buy mutual funds and make more money depending on how the funds do.

  17. Jack Vincent2 years ago

    Your article re: Social Security was very clear and informative. I think one of the biggest problems with our representatives is the sad miscommunication about S.S. to the public. Shouting that the system is “broke” when it is not is a lot like shouting fire in a crowded theater. Calling all S.S. programs “entitlements” is incendiary and produces much misplaced anger in the public/voters for political purposes.

    I am glad the system was created and am enjoying the benefits with my wife, also retired. As much as European countries have what appears to be chaotic multi-party political systems, I believe the US could benefit from a third and fourth party, The two-party system seems to be unable to make much progress in areas such as Tax reform, or Social Security system modifications, or Infrastructure maintenance. They are very talented when it comes to theatrics, drama, and disseminating falsehoods and half truths.

  18. Al PA2 years ago

    Good report. I would also appreciate an explanation of the transfers to the Railroad Workers Fund. Is this a repayment of borrowed funds, or payouts to workers that did not contribute into Social Security – similar to spousal payouts to non-working / non-contributing spouses (spousal is not to be confused with a survivor payout)?

    An OASI tax increase to cover non-working spouses, which would be annually refundable with other proof of OASI payments by said spouse is another source of income to the fund. I.e. only increase the tax on the worker’s portion of the tax, not the employer’s, since the spousal payout is maxed at one half of the worker’s payout.

  19. Alexelizabeth2 years ago

    Great facts about social security have been discussed here. This is an informative article indeed. To stay updated with the latest issues and people’s statements, visit

  20. Jess Sumoter2 years ago

    This article is full of misinformation. Social Security would be in great shape if the government returned the $4.7 TRILLION Ronnie Reagan and the DUMBYA stole and never replaced.

    It’s pretty sad when people write trash like this and fail to TELL THE TRUTH!!!

    1. Enrique Montero2 years ago

      Jess, that doesn’t make sense.
      Surpluses collected from the SS funding sources are REQUIRED by law to be loaned to the federal government. The loans are required by law to be repaid back to the program when the social security commissioner says they need the funds to issue benefits, i.e. when SS doesn’t collect a surplus in that year. The trust fund that holds the balance that the federal gov’t owes to SS also accumulates interest, so the SS program is actually gaining more cash than it lent (duh that’s what collecting interest means!). This has always been the case since SS was created by Roosevelt in 1935.
      So it doesn’t make sense to claim a president has taken money from SS, or that “they” are obligated to pay it back before the commissioner asks.
      Hope this clears up your misconceptions.

      1. Cris2 years ago

        They (those in charge of the funds) in the government should never have been allowed to borrow from SS period!

      2. Horseman II Martin2 years ago

        what then…..” The stolen funds are only to be paid back when the Social Security Commissioner asks for it to pay out benefits”. So, doesn’t the fact that the system which has paid out in deficit of $84 Billion, equate to needing that NEAR $5 TRILLION BACK. You know, that small demand loan REGAN STOLE from the people of this county, to make his paper presidency look better. BULLSHIT ! Let’s see Obama do the same, and see if this country doesn’t return to a call for a good Ol boy….lynching !!!

  21. Steven2 years ago

    Why can’t social security, invests the money in stocks, municipal bonds, commercial paper, forex, etc.
    It is exactly what Japan did, and it averted a major crisis.

    1. Dan Decker2 years ago

      The answer to your question is because the government continues to take any and all funds not paid out to beneficiaries.

  22. James2 years ago

    Why can’t social security, invest in something than treasury bonds such as municipal bonds, stocks, and commercial paper.
    Social Security has more assists than fidelity for goodness sakes.

  23. sylvia wilkinson2 years ago

    My question is: Is the interest being paid on the borrowed money or is it just being credited to the account? And another question, how much would the current ceiling on earnings subject to Social Security taxes ($118,500?) have to be raised to make the fund solvent? And have the “natural” increases such as the increase in the cost of a loaf of bread been added since the start?

    1. Dan Decker2 years ago

      Nope, no interest is being paid on the borrowed money.

    2. Enrique Montero2 years ago

      Interest on the trust fund (the account that holds how much the gov’t owes to SS) is accumulating:…

  24. WeissFox2 years ago

    The significant question to be asked is that of wealth inequality.

    As inequality rises, more and more of the potentially taxable income become’s unreachable, outside the cap. Leaving less and less available for taxation. Raising the cap is the only logical answer to the problem. Putting the necessary amount of income back on the table.

    Putting corporations back on the chopping block and requiring them to pay into social security based on their entire income would also be a significant boost. (instead of allowing them to pay virtually nothing, they want to be treated as if they are actual person’s, then they should get stuck with the bill just like everyone else!)

  25. Brett King2 years ago

    What happened to all the excess SS money paid to the government prior to 1983???

    1. Ian MacFarlane2 years ago

      The article stated that there was no surplus prior to 1983.

      1. Dan Decker2 years ago

        The article is not factual in that regard.

  26. Joe Huber2 years ago

    The Republican Party appears to have considered Social Security as its Number One Target, ever since it became law. Until all parties involved consider the Plan in a realistic, and apolitical, manner, it will never be seriously re-structured, as may be required.

    The idea of reducing Social Security benefits, on an incremental basis, according to retirement income levels, would be a valuable stop-gap measure. Making unearned income subject to FIFA, for those in the higher tax brackets, has already been suggested.

    I knew a widow of a man worth tens of millions of dollars. She wanted to stop receiving it, since it was an inconvenience to deposit just $2,000 monthly, but that was not permitted under the system.

    Lastly, the idea of deferring “full retirement age” longer is truly unrealistic. The people who perform manual labor (fast food restaurants, construction, some health care, etc.) simply cannot keep their bodies functioning that long. And by the way, the people who, in fact, do live longer are also those who generally earn higher incomes–and will not need it as much as those with manual labor jobs.

    1. Dan Decker2 years ago

      Wrong party, Joe Huber. The democrats in congress have been stealing the fund blind for more than half a century. There is some blame for the republicans, too, but the primary thieves are the democrats.

    2. Martha Wadsworth2 years ago

      This was done by Lyndon Johnson and his democratically controlled Congress which took the funds out of the trust and put the money in the general funds so Congress could spend the money. Look at the entitlements the Democrats have now from the general finds for votes!!!

  27. Karen Michaelson2 years ago

    The most logical first step is to raise the income level on which Social Security is taken. I exceeded that cap when I was working and could have easily continued to contribute without feeling the pinch.

  28. Mildred Fischer2 years ago

    Why is Social Security called a federal program since the employee and the employer were the only contributors and the government never contributed a penny to the fund. Why is SS going broke when so many who paid into the fund died before they ever collected a cent.

    1. Joe The Economist2 years ago

      Let me know if you want a link to the answer.

      A retiree in 1960 expected to collected about $8 of benefits for every $1 contributed on an investment adjusted basis. You can’t sell dollars for dimes, and expect to say in business long.

      This problem was recognized in 1944 by the Chairman of the SS.

      1. Stan2 years ago

        I would like to read that . Thank you Joe

  29. informed2 years ago

    The US Government is borrowing money from the social security trust fund in the form of Treasury Bonds and doesn’t want to pay the interest back to the trust fund. The Trust Fund lends the US Government approximately 18 percent of all the money that they borrow annually. If Congress pays back all the principal and interest that is due the trust fund it would not be spending more than it takes in. I guarantee that the US doesn’t fail to pay the Chinese, Japanese, English and other foreign entities that it borrows from all the interest that they are due. If Congress would treat the SS Trust Fund just like they treat Foreign entities, to which they are indebted, the SS trust Fund would be solvent. The only reason you hear the horror stories about Social Security’s demise is because that is what some Republican Congress persons and their sponsors (Wall Street) want you to think. All they want is the money that is being put into Social Security to go to Wall Street and investors so they can enrich themselves at the peoples expense.

    1. Ian MacFarlane2 years ago

      The government pays interest on the treasury bonds that Social Security invests its surplus in. The idea that the government took the money is nonsense and propaganda by the RWNJs.

  30. Mary beth hilland2 years ago

    Social Security and disability here in PA is a joke. Are elderly who need care can’t get it. People under the age of 65, so disability,plus all the welfare perks are getting free aides for the homes 40 hours and more. Physically most do not need those amount of hours. The aging elderly with physical medical issues do. They get 6 hours a week and maybe 40 dollars I food stamps. It is a shame if your fat u too can get free stomach surgery, food stamps, just tell the dr. And the public welfare office your legs hurt. But to hell with an ailing dying parent. No free home health for you. Just a caregiver who sees wasted tax dollars out in the field everyday.

  31. Shane2 years ago

    The thing that really gets me about the Social Security Administration is the fact that they reserve the right to “wipe out” all of your benefit award amounts and start you back at 0 if you don’t work for five consecutive years. This happened to my aunt when she, of all the children, took my ill Grandmother in after Grandpa died. She was her caregiver for nearly six years. She put her mom’s needs before her own, and now that she is older herself, and unable to work due to a slew of health issues, she is SCREWED. I think it’s BS that you work for 30-40+ years and the government is entitled to just take it all away from you! They want to reform something, reform THAT!

  32. Harriette Holder2 years ago

    Dear Mr. DeSilver, I’ve read the report and just to let you know, I’m 79 years old and have a good memory of how Social Security was to work. It was never intended to be a “slush fund” for the federal government to raid when it needed money to support social programs to benefit those who never paid into it or who weren’t even legal citizens. What is the solution to the specter of running out of funds in 2031? Cut out spending! Go back to the original intent of Social Security. The solution I feel will hasten this situation is to force government employees (current politicians and retired ones) to merge their “account” with Social Security. After all, we are all supposed to be in the “same boat” – USA citizens.

  33. Wayne2 years ago

    Two Questions:

    1 – How many people on SS actually PAID the SS tax ?

    2 – If those that did NOT pay into SS were removed and the top end tax amount was removed so as long as you work you pay the SS tax rate would the SS fund survive ?

    1. MIMI2 years ago

      What I have a problem with is all these people collecting that have not paid a cent in.
      Like, kids that have lost a parent…and collect all the way through college. No matter what these kids have a lifetime of earning power…they may pay in, they might not, no gaurantee.
      Those that have disibilities….collecting, but have not paid in.
      Am I being mean?
      If, I had been smart, I would have taken care with my own funds that I did pay in. Instead of handing it over to S.S.

  34. Bruce Porter2 years ago

    So in effect the US government has created it’s own Ponzi scheme since 1983. It would be interesting to separate true SS (those that paid in) from the disability payments and see if it could support itself. I have suspicion the disability payments have caused the negative impact on the program.

    1. Acadium2 years ago

      Yes. Welcome to 21st Century Fleecing Of The American Middle Class by the RICH AND POWERFUL.

      If SS isn’t there when I retire after paying in at a substantial rate for almost 50 years I will go off the deep end.

  35. Asa Ferguson2 years ago

    How many people recive S.S. checks each mounth who never paid into fund?
    How many disabilities are paid out to people who didn’t pay into the fund?
    Why is the real reason we are running out of money?
    What Gender collects the most S.S. ?

  36. steven Barone2 years ago

    I would say that the OHP insurance company and Medicate or medicare or congress should pay for people to wear hearing aids and for the congress to pay for people with learning disabilities or all types of disabilities for braces to be worn on their teeth even for when people have TMJ stress to their jaw grinding their teeth. Even that braces cost 6,030. Come on Congressman grow up are you afraid of losing money of paying to everyone and have people pay more taxes are you kidden me. That is not good. Congressman get a grip out of it stop asking people to raise their taxes or asking them if it is good idea . I receive SSI live in Oregon in Eugene . Boo at Congressman or at SSI or the benefits. Give people a break Congressman please? stop forcing them to pay more taxes. You pay for all of us and please say yes to hearing aids or braces. I have a learning disability. Tired of people complaining at you congressman start helping out? Thank you and stop ignoring people?

  37. Bob2 years ago

    A big thing on occasion has been the accounting that says – the average person “contributed” X amount of dollars to the system but will DRAW Y amount of dollars – generally shown as a much higher amount than what was contributed. What I want to know is this – if that money had been saved and earning interest (as it currently is in treasuries) and that interest rate (rate of return) were applied to the money that the average person “contributed” to the system, how much would they (and their employer) have actually “contributed”? For instance, if, for example, I had $200k taken from my pay over the course of my life (I think the average is actually higher) and the government had been saving that money and collecting interest on it during my working years, how much interest would I have built up – or, in other words, how much would I have saved with that interest? You guys might know the ACTUAL average amount and can do the math from there, but you get the idea…

  38. Anglyn Hays2 years ago

    The Boomers have known all along that any social security benefits were dependent on the success of future generations. They choose, quite consciously, to NOT invest in future generations. However well the Millennials and their middle management elders Gen X can support the Boomers is exactly what they planned for. They never thought later groups would exceed their accomplishments and made that plain in all their published works. Why are they surprised that unless their personal wealth building scheme worked out, they would be leveled out where ever their inferior children ended up as the end times approached. The ideology of the Boomers did not include making a better world for their children, just for themselves as they enjoyed ridiculing those who came after as if they had no responsibility at all. If they must accept a lower standard of living in their senior years as a result, I see no way of preventing that.

  39. Lily2 years ago

    I have always understood that the benefits I pay in go to the current generation that is collecting benefits/entitlements… what has been withheld in payroll taxes is NOT a personal savings/ trust account to be drawn on upon reaching eligible age to receive benefits (In my case 67).
    ….in other words, the taxes that I have paid are going to the Baby Boomer generation and the generation prior.

    I will not be eligible for benefits until 2030, so to you those of you who feel that you are “entitled”, I am pretty much kissing what I paid in to social security goodbye….this is a hard pill to swallow for the generations that follow the baby boomers.

    Frankly, seeing the incredible waste that takes place, and living with the knowledge that I most likely will never see benefits, I would have preferred to have put everything that has been deducted from my earnings into a PERSONAL trust account…I think that this would allow for far more personal oversight, and less waste…(do I really want to see my withholdings going to boomer’s greens fees, viagra, and their weekly weed?) ….seriously

    (I know this is not all baby boomers, but really I do feel that this the rule and not the

    On a separate note, I just had a conversation with with someone who is in their 60’s, the remark to me goes as paraphrased… “I don’t care what happens to the generation that follows me, as long as I get my benefits, as long as I got to have a fun life…can’t the government just print more money?”….uckk, uckk, uckkk (this was a real conversation)
    what incredible hubris and ignorance.

    1. mako2 years ago

      I can see why any young one will be annoyed. But you covered a lot of stuff in there.
      I will say that the attitude of today’s youth is different than the past. I doubt many of you will put in as many hours trying to give you every opportunity.

      Perhaps that’s a good thing. I sometimes thing the desire to outdo your parents is a slippery slope to disappointment. Much success is fortuitous, no matter how hard you work.

      1. Gerry Gentile2 years ago

        I suspect the reason that so many of the young won’t “put in as many hours trying to give (us) every opportunity” is because many companies feel they can save money on payrolls by only hiring part time workers. Employees can’t work full time if they aren’t allowed to work full time.

  40. EP2 years ago

    When it comes to SSI we need to differentiate between retirement benefits and welfare. Do not take away retirement in fact it should be increased but ENOUGH of the free ride for all the people getting a free ride and never contributing.They get free housing, food, health and utilitiy bills subsidized. They are driving up apt costs because owners know the gov will pay the cost (meaning we the working and retired americans who pay taxes) Im sick and tired of the special interest groups taking more and more never putting into the system. Every group has been persecuted at some point in time and they all have the same opportunity to better themselves. These people have in our country now are committing crimes stealing SS numbers and just standing around with their hands open and we just throw money at them enough cut out ALL subsidies for the ddeadbeats. America is the worst our own citizens who have worked are the only ones we should be helping. Go to any emergency room and look who is in there the deadbeats why because they dont pay anything but of course I cant afford to go to the doctor so my taxes pay for them. Ridiculous!! Wake up America

    1. steve2 years ago

      Who is “they” EP? You are lumping disabled people in with deadbeats and “people we have in our country now (who) are committing crimes…). No, every group has not had the same opportunity, and some whom are born with disabilities (whether mental or physical) never will. The majority of disabled people collecting benefits were born with, or have suffered, a loss that robs them of an opportunity to work or enjoy much of what life has to offer. You say you are sick and tired of everyone who didn’t “work” for their benefits taking your share of the pie, but most of “they” have indeed paid their dues, and are every bit as deserving as you. God forbid you should have a disabled child or relative who needs SS disability help. But I don’t know, maybe you would be willing to bear that burden of support for them, fund two retirements instead of one, while your fellow citizens wish you the best of luck.

    2. Pamj2 years ago

      I agree with you 1000% again I agree with you 1000%. My husband’s 23 year old daughter gets SSI and she acts as if she is entitled every chance I get I take a swipe at her when she get started on her check and it is not enough to live on I let her know I worked 45 years of my life and paid my taxes and millions of other American citizens are the ones that are entitled and she should try that job thing it might work out better for future Because at the age of 23 I had worked 5 years.

  41. Maggie2 years ago

    What happens to the money collected thru the years of people who died, and have no children, or spouse living to collect on their s/s.?I remember being told that the Fed taxes was for our retirement, for disability or for time of unemployment, but when times comes for anyone that’s has been paying their taxes since day 1 always a problem, but one that never paid a ¢ or worked a day in their life get it quick without long waiting or obstacle s. Why they make it hard to give back the money that was taken from every paycheck when is needed? isn’t it why they tell tax payers is there, for when is needed?

  42. Pat3 years ago

    Why can’t we earn as much as we want when we keep working after age 66.

  43. LARRY3 years ago


    1. Diane3 years ago

      They don’t “borrow” it, legally, it has to be loaned. Dumb right?

  44. Fred Morgan3 years ago

    According to Forbes.. the entire “Trust Fund” was borrowed out and is in fact a fictional amount relying on the government to make good on it’s payments… This “FACT” seems to be ABSENT from your little fact list…????

  45. Sam3 years ago

    How about the federal government start paying back all those IOU’S for trillions of dollars they called “borrowing”. Why should I have to take a cut on my 50 yrs of paying into the system because the feds don’t know how to manage money?

    1. Sean3 years ago

      The federal government DOES pay back those IOU’s all the time. Nobody has ever had their SS direct deposit or check bounce. In fact, I have never seen a federal check bounce. You can redeem your IOU at the agreed upon date and there will be no problem

      1. deb3 years ago

        That is a lie. If that were true, they would not be telling me that social security will not be available when I am of retirement age. They also do not say what happens to all the money collected from people who never reach the age of retirement and have no dependents or spouses that collect. I personally want my money, I have been working since the age of 15.

    2. Keith3 years ago

      They also need to repay the interest on the principal they borrowed. Taking money out and simply putting it back years later does not address the lost opportunity of those funds to grow.

  46. zotquix3 years ago

    Came here looking for facts about Social Security. Got fear mongering hatchet job.

  47. Kevin3 years ago

    Just take the cap off and tax all income.

    1. David3 years ago

      That’s a pretty crooked idea, because if your earnings are high when you retire, you don’t even get to collect, in spite of all the years you paid in. What you wants amounts to increasing the theft and doubling down on the only ponzi scheme that will put you in jail for not paying in.

    2. Kathleen Taylor3 years ago

      There you go. It’s ridiculous that some CEO making millions a year is only paying into social security on a little over $113,000 dollars.

      1. Mdep12xy2 years ago

        That CEO’s social security benefits will not go beyond earnings of $113K so why should he/she pay more if he/she won’t receive benefits beyond the cap?

  48. Sherry Mckay3 years ago

    I would certainly like to know why social security is always referenced by the government as something they are giving away, I know countless people who paid in to there SS retirement fund that only lived 4 to 5 years after retirement, so with that said where did all of there money go, Our own government has robbed the SS coffers and has depleted them down to a little bit of nothing, , Our government is worried about keeping a triple A credit score with the world but it can’t afford to pay back all the IOU’S TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE that they have stolen right out of the elders mouth, I have seen old people at the store buying cat food bread n milk, makes me wonder if that’s what they are eating.

    1. corey doughty3 years ago

      because some people who get ss is because they dont get enough income and cant do much on there on

    2. Barbara2 years ago

      i think the point he was trying to make was there are so many drawing for disability that should not be drawing. There are many that have handicaps that are deserving of the benefits.
      I know people collecting that the government disability checks that needs smart phone instead of taking the government free phone. And they l have a BIG SCREEN TV! Long before I could afford one. And I worked for a living. As a woman my pay check was a lot less than any Mans would be for sure but I worked just as hard if not harder in many instnces. Women don’t get. Fair shake here either.

  49. Almost4 years ago

    I’m sorry but your transfer of wealth idea is incorrect. Social Security was never intended to be a transfer of wealth. The only reason tax dollars are currently refilling the Social Security fund is because the government decided they could borrow funds from it to pay for other things. They’ve been taking money out and leaving IOU’s, which when forced to, they repay using the income they generate from taxes. It’s no different than those taxes repaying any other loans our government has. When we pay China or Japan what we owe them, we are not supporting their governments with our taxes, and neither are we supporting Social Security recipients. They paid their entire lives into a government sponsored pension plan and receiving their own money back as they were promised is not an entitlement program or a transfer of wealth.

    1. Dick Rasmussen4 years ago

      Very difficult to get the cattle back in the corral after they’ve been turned loose.
      Doesn’t matter how you explain it. There’s gonna be less as the population ages. Going from 5 or 6 workers per retiree to 3 and less per retiree is pretty straight forward arithmetic !

      1. Paul3 years ago

        Dick, you seemed to not understand the following passage from Mr DeSilver’s piece:
        For much of its history, Social Security was a strictly pay-as-you-go system, with current tax receipts funding current benefits. That changed in 1983, when Congress (as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the program) raised the payroll taxes that provide the bulk of Social Security’s revenue, to build up a cushion for the coming onslaught of Baby-Boomer retirees.

    2. David3 years ago

      Social security began paying out benefits to people who hadn’t paid in the year it was enacted. That’s money from one generation to the previous. It has never given back money that was paid in to the same generation.

      1. Paul3 years ago

        I do not understand your statement. Are you criticizing Social Security payments, or justifying them?

    3. Sean3 years ago

      You have no clue what you are talking about, It is the same as taking a401K loan. If you borrow say $10k from your 401k, it is paid back BY YOU, with interest. It still is your own money. It takes more from your income and puts more into your 401K

    4. deb3 years ago

      so true!!!

  50. Greg M4 years ago

    Take the cap off and increase the payroll tax by .25% and the problem is solved for the foreseeable future. Your benefits are figured on your work history and money contributed so benefits would increase accordingly. As far as raising the retirement age, having been a keg ,(168lbs.), driver for Budweiser, you do not do that physical of a job until age 67! There are many physical jobs that wear your body out before retirement age. Dismantle the culture in WA. DC so congress receives the same pay and benefits as the congressional districts they represent.

    1. deb3 years ago

      I agree!

  51. James allen4 years ago

    SS benefits is a very wrong name for SS disbursements. I paid (involuntarily) into the SS fund for ~60 years.

    If I withdraw fund from my bank savings account…is that a benefit ??? DUH

    1. ann3 years ago

      yeah, you are so right.
      Also, what accounting firms advised Administrations to ‘borrow” from the ss fund when any simpleton can figure out ‘boomer’ meant UNUSUALLY high birth rates, but computers were predicted since the 70’s to eliminate jobs??
      Now Obummer is flooding our country with people due ‘entitlements’ who never contributed into the ss system and cannot speak English for employment! But they get food, housing free medical now doled out by **OUR** kids who we slaved for to send to college now picking fruit or bad job, cannot buy a home until college loans are paid off??

  52. Phil Bogdonoff4 years ago

    Privatization of SS certainly may not guarantee successful returns.

    The debacle of Wall Street in 2008 is an indication of what could happen.

    They are NOT to be trusted. The US government with its regulatory powers is the best

    guarantor. Enforcement of those powers must be the key.

    1. Colyn3 years ago

      False dichotomy.

  53. Dan4 years ago

    The most contentious point on SS is whether you have “earned” it through past contributions. In our area, AARP has begun running ads about the way to fix America is by making sure we don’t “gut” SS. They then say retirees have “earned” the benefits. Talk about convoluted thinking.

    It is my contention that the average contributions, compounded, do not equal the benefits derived. As best as I can tell, that is true in my case.

    The idea that we “pay forward” is really nice if it weren’t for once inconvenient truth. Demographics don’t support it. At the macro level, the U.S. is barely at replacement birth rates. Most OEDC members are not. So there is no pyramid of workers ready and able to stand up and make the contributions needed to keep SS solvent.

    The SS plan is the least of our worries. Adjustments in COLA, starting age and removing caps will address many of the problems for now.

    As far as projecting mortality rates goes, using todays estimates for future mortality is actually looking in the rear view mirror. We are on the verge of incredible advances in healthspan, not just life span.

    Finally, if you look around, baby boomers are already taking their own steps to work beyond SS retirement ages. It is one of the reasons young people are struggling to find jobs.

    1. Bill H3 years ago

      There are some people who have put in plenty & have earned social security. Personally I’ve been paying into the system for 36 years & I should not expect anything back? No I should be taking care of with money I’ve been paying all my life into Social Security. I was told this was retirement funds for when i could no longer work. Fact of the matter is its running out of money because of crooked politicians & the millions of illegals & people who live here that never worked that are collecting the money. Millions of hard working americans paid into the system thier whole lives & they deserve to be token care of instead of lazy people who don’t want to work & illegal people that politicians are letting into the country just to get votes!

      1. Paul3 years ago

        Social Security benefits were never meant to be the sole source of income for a retiree, but one of the sources that could also include pensions and veteran’s benefits.
        “The Congressional Budget Office…puts the date at 2031 [for Social Security to become insolvent]. After that, while the system will still be receiving tax revenue, it will only be enough to pay about three-quarters of scheduled benefits — unless Congress changes the benefit formulas, raises the payroll tax, or makes other changes such as raising the cap on taxable wage income (currently $113,700).”

        This means that Social Security will have FULL benefits until at least 2031, after which time they will have sufficient funds to pay 3/4 of the total benefits that people have paid into the fund.

      2. ann3 years ago

        NEVER vote Democrat… Oops.I mean for socialism…

        1. 333 only 1/2 evil3 years ago

          You need more, perhaps Tom Paine the voice of the Revolution, Agrarian Justice or his 1st Common Sense???

          In my own words, the greater portion of wealth created by us the majority, the working class, must be kept in circulation. That is the function of taxes and spending by institutions of governance under this republic and in our names, e.g., social safety nets, infrastructure, etc. An expectation of 0% unemployment under a strictly private property structure is a pipe dream.

          The problem is that buying into anti-tax rhetoric and voting its proponents has never benefited workers only the <1%ers, corporate and real persons. Open your eyes to them paying little to no tax in some cases receiving refunds. On the other hand my wife and I were at an adjusted 23% marginal tax rate last year. Frankly, I'm proud to share my wealth (misnomer I know) we live well. We have revenue problem because of the <1%ers because we no longer tax them in proportion to their incomes, wealth and profits.

          Allow less than 1% of the society to amass and sequester over a third of annual wealth to their sole advantage and you have an anemic economy as much as would occur if you would permit a third of your blood to be removed and similarly used or as life would suffer if a third of the planets oxygen were similarly used, i.e., removed and sequestered to the sole advantage of a super minority

          1. Karen Stock2 years ago

            Well said!

        2. Chris3 years ago

          Or for Republickers!

          No matter how many times the Social Security Trust Fund and it’s benefits are explained to the Republic Party Moonbats, they still insist on repeating Fox News propaganda.

          Please use your brains, People.

  54. dAn4 years ago

    There is NO money in the trust funds. It is just an accounting gimmick. Congress can at any time change the benefit formula and collection structure to anything they want. The 1983 increase in the SS tax percentage didn’t change the pay-as-you-go system. This said there is a MORAL obligation here which any politician can only avoid at their peril, as the system is so popular. Minor adjustments will be needed unless general tax revenue will be used (as recently became the case) in the future too. Biggest saving will come out of Defense spending going forward and unless something unforeseen happens both sides will have to acknowledge that.

  55. Rose4 years ago

    I would like to know the results of the remedies that have been proposed. For instance, what would happen if there were no cap to the tax on earnings? What would be the likely result of privatizing? How much would the tax have to be raised to cover the projected costs. Until the facts and/or probabilities are laid out, it is impossible to make a sound decision.

  56. melody stewart4 years ago

    It is interesting to me, that since I became a teacher in later life, that my social security benefit amount was dollar for dollar diminished by the amount of my teacher’s pension. This certainly does not make me want to spread the news about how rewarding teaching can be.

  57. Ann Garton4 years ago

    Why do the press and the government keep referring to Medicare and Social Security as entitlement programs. They have been and are still being paid for by the individuals who are working and or have worked for the benefits. Also all seniors receiving Medicare benefits are paying a monthly premium of a $100.00 per month. That premium rate has been going up steadily since I became eligible for benefits in 2005. Entitlement programs are AFDC, SSI,HUD housing, Medicaid, free school breakfast and lunch and anything else the tax payers have to pay for those who do not pay taxes because they do not make enough income. Since you are a research org. You need to correct this information as the general public DOES NOT know the difference.

    1. Rando4 years ago

      It is not an entitlement until you draw out more than you pay in.

      For instance; My neighbor probably paid into Medicare $40,000 dollars over the course of his career since he retired early and his employer contributed the same.

      My neighbor has had since he retired, more operations than Seal Team Six. He told me one operation totaled $60,000 dollars and another one amounted to $70,000.

      God only knows how much extra has been thrown into the mix since he’s on more medication than Michael Jackson in his afterlife. Maybe I should make that AFTERLIFE.

      God bless Social Security and Medicare. I can’t imagine where we would be without them.

    2. Sean3 years ago

      A lie. housing subsidies are no more an entitlement than your Medicare., Yes, you paid, BUT most people who receive housing subsidies paid in as well. It just was not a separate line item on your paycheck

  58. Fran4 years ago

    This was a very clarifying and concise summary of the SS situation. Probably More senior citizens need to be educated so that AARP doesn’t ramp up the anxieties of the elderly. Reform is necessary. Possibly a small reduction in benefits (2-3%) and a small raise in in the taxable wage cap (2-3%) might be helpful. Should the programs now offered be reassessed? Absolutely! Privatization would be a nightmare. Please take a poll on your summary points when this topic “heats up” and maybe the politicians will “hear” it.

  59. Linwood4 years ago

    I wholeheartedly agree with Roy!

  60. David4 years ago

    I would support increasing the cap. I do not want to see any reductions in benefits. One of the problems is that many of our citizens, still jobless and who have run out of unemployment are turning to Disability Insurance, guided by the lawyers and medical hacks. SSI is another drain as well. I’m not certain how many, who have not paid into the system, are drawing checks. I’ve never quite understood why the death of a parent sends the children to college, while the rest of America struggles. I don’t see how the cap can remain where it is. Privatization is definitely not the answer.

    1. deb3 years ago

      Trust me, social security for minor dependents does not send them to college. My children s father died when they were ages two and four. The amount of money I received for them in a month was enough to pay daycare for a month and that was about it. It did not buy food, clothing, pay school fees, dr bills, dentist bills or pay for any other activities or things my children wanted to do. After daycare it did pay for braces because at the time braces were not paid for by insurance. It was considered cosmetic. Then paid for clothes, etc. But never did it pay for everything my child needed that had their father been alive and helping out would not have been a issue.

  61. Roy4 years ago

    I say get rid of the cap. If I have to pay the tax on 100% of my income then those making more should too. This is just another case of something being built on the backs the poor.

    1. Steve3 years ago

      Yes Roy but your tax bracket isn’t already at 35% roughly. Add an extra 6% that’s 41%. Let’s see you pay 41% of your income every month to State and Federal taxes and see how much you want to raise taxes.

  62. rod4 years ago

    The greatest Ponzi scheme in history. Only the government could pull off this scam and get away with it.

    1. Leslie4 years ago

      Old age income security and disability income security for my grandparents, my parents, and now me, is no “Ponzi scheme.”

      A “Ponzi scheme” entices new investors by offering higher returns than other investments, in the form of short-term returns that are either abnormally high or unusually consistent. Social Security does none of those things.

      Each generation in my family paid into a system that ensured (and insured) we would not spend our final years in poverty, die of starvation, or work until the moment of death. And it helped my brother who became disabled and died in middle age – after drawing only a tiny fraction of what he contributed. All tolled, none of my grandparents or parents received anything near the contributions they made to Social Security.

      Yes. I might collect more than I contributed, after just 7 years. Social Security says I may live (the average) of 15 years longer. There’s the problem. And the solution. Longer life – longer work life for many. More contributions.

      Taking the income cap off would do much to help, too.

  63. Sara4 years ago

    If the cap on F.I.C.A. salary deductions is eliminated, Social Security would never have a funding problem.

  64. Bob Cox4 years ago

    Just fix it!! Cap this. Means test that. Admit that the system is just plain screed up and not sustainable. We’ll maybe not because then you need to deal with reason and equity.

    As long as the goobers in Congress equate fixing anything with a tax increase, nothing is going to get fixed regardless of what the majority of us think about the issue. The extreme right wing is running the zoo because the rest of the (fill in the blank) are more worried about a Tea Party primary challenge than doing a credible job. Liberals are afraid to be Liberals and moderates are afraid of their own shadows, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, primary challenges, Glenn Beck, Rush and you name it. Democracy isn’t democracy when the operable premise is minority rule.

    I really wish the “media” and pew would stop throwing out gross research numbers about the percentage in favor or against something without the additional information about the particulars of the groups for and against. If the 17% against is Romney’s group, then the info seems to be somewhat spurious at best and at the very least casts the survey results in a different light.

    Can’t wait to see the new bipartisan budget negotiation committee crash and burn because fixing anything is a tax increase.

    1. Bob3 years ago

      “Just fix it!” Totally agree. Why that doesn’t happen? Legislators are more worried about getting re-elected than serving the citizens. Term-limits is the solution to many if not most of our political impasses. As John Connally (late Texas governor) said almost 30 years ago. “Legislators should go to Washington, serve their country, then come back and live with the laws they made.”

  65. Joe Adams4 years ago

    Cap on income should be TOTALLY removed.

  66. Joe4 years ago

    The real “Entitlement” programs are those given to past and present members of congress. Social Security retirement benefits are the result of years of worker contributions. The problem with Social Security funding is due to congressional meddling. They should be included on the Social Security like the rest of us ordinary citizens.

  67. Maria A. Sweet4 years ago

    The existing cap in contributions of Social Security System needs to be eliminated. It does not make sense.

  68. @euonymous4 years ago

    “Unless”… one other option is to bring jobs back to the US. It seems to me we are long overdue for a Legislature and Administration who will make it less desirable economically to have US companies move and retain jobs overseas. We need to re-invigorate our manufacturing sector which provides employment and a certain degree of independence to our economy.

    Of course there’s always “Eat the Rich.” Just kidding. It’s getting close to dinnertime.

    1. Dee3 years ago

      This is the problem & the solution in a nut shell… the return of JOBS to America.
      If the business that make their Millions & Billions in America would actually invest in the American economy instead of transferring our economic wealth overseas, we wouldn’t have the (unemployed, baby boomer, next generation, longer life expectancy) issues we are currently struggling with.
      More jobs means that more people are paying into the system of taxation that supports both social security & Medicare.
      Unfortunately, our “job creators” are only creating jobs – and building economies- for other countries. They are enjoying the American profits but not investing in the same country that has made them rich.

  69. Daniel4 years ago

    It seems that raising the cap is the answer. I never did understand the reason for the cap. But this will watch out for accountants and tax lawyers to start developing ways around it. Like deferring income until they reach retirement or instead of income they will get some in stock options. The machinery to detect fraud must be diligent and funded in order to prevent, as much as possible, back door methods of avoidance. No one has mentioned the way that cola adjustments are figured to increase or stay stagnant. We need real figures not some arbitrary cherry picked numbers to.

  70. frank4 years ago

    Social Security retirement benefits are tied to the contributions and contributions are a function of covered pay. The covered pay cap was removed for Medicare because there is no correlation between contributions and benefits. If the covered pay cap is removed for Social Security either of two things need to happen: i) The benefits for very highly paid people will increase significantly due to the increase of their contributions; ii) If the benefit no longer correlates to the contributions we all admit that the program is not a retirement program but in fact an intergenerational welfare program. There’s not enough courage in our political class to stand up and admit that Social Security is and has always been an intergenerational welfare program. If removing the pay cap was so easy the Social Security covered pay cap would have been removed when the cap was removed for Medicare.

  71. PaulaK4 years ago

    Why do choose to use the term entitlement, even in parentheses? I’ve paid for both social security & medicare throughout my working life. This is an insurance policy not a gift.

  72. Don4 years ago

    I have been representing disability claimants for 33 years. Nearly every claimant who is disabled by depression or back pain will have to appear before an administrative law judge, where the national average approval rate (for all illnesses and conditions) is 46%. And to be approved one must have qualifying medical records of diagnosis and treatment. Very difficult to commit fraud, certainly not to the tune of 50% of all claims.

    I did not see the 60 Minutes report. It sounds like they cherry-picked some statistics to make an alarmist TV show.

  73. Timothy4 years ago

    There is a simple fix – (1) set up a separate fund – (2) call in all the IOU’s (3) have Social Security and Medicare contributions attached to all earned income – and (4) verify that all receiving distributions from the fund are eligible to receive the distribution.

    There is no accountability anywhere in our Federal government – $1 trillion has been distributed by the Treasury for three years (all funds were printed) but there is isn’t a clear record as where the money in excess of the faux budget went to.

  74. Brenda Sue4 years ago

    The income limit on Social Security income distributions should be increased
    to double the present income limit to income of $226,000. This would help
    the Social Security fund to remain solvent for a longer period.

  75. Benji4 years ago

    Why doesn’t congress raise the taxable wage income cap? Why are they delaying action now that will help millions in later years? Is it because the “rich” people are really the ones running this country and not ordinary middle income people, as they want us to believe.

  76. Garry Herron4 years ago

    Is it possible that Social Security revenues could also be raised by extending its tax to cover other types of incomes, such as dividends, distributions and private equity earnings?

  77. B. Beech4 years ago

    Until there is an agreement on how to fund Social Security programs I think the benefits should be frozen at current rate. Increasing benefits will only add to the debt problem on this entitlement program.
    Taxes should be collected on much higher level of income, up to $350,000 which be more rational. That would bring in much needed refinancing.

  78. TJ4 years ago

    Eliminate the cap on salaries, yes, and do a means test for recipients – Social Security was meant to be insurance, not a pension plan. Retired folks getting income of $75,000 or more a year (from whatever/all sources) don’t need – and shouldn’t get – Social Security benefits. Make those two changes, there is no funding problem.

  79. Micki4 years ago

    If some retired people opted out of receiving monthly Social Security payments in exchange for not having to pay income tax on pension income, does anyone out there know what effect this would have on the SS program? Right now my income taxes pretty much match my income from SS, nearly a wash and it puts me in a higher tax bracket.

  80. Howard4 years ago

    Simply eliminate the cap on salaries altogether. It is time for the superrich to pay their fair share.

    1. Elaine4 years ago

      Howard, if you had left off the last sentence, I would have thought you were being reasonable. Now, I suspect that you are part of the problem. I am in no way super rich, but I do not begrudge anyone who works hard enough to become super rich. I guess I was just brought up different.

      1. Bald Eagle4 years ago

        It’s not about working hard. If it were, there would be a ton of men and women who really worked hard and a lot less among the very wealthy whose hardest work was managing their investments.

        1. Dan4 years ago

          There would also be a ton of people who don’t deserve what they get. Plus I guess you never met an entrepreneur who built his fortune by taking a second mortgage on their home. Or who failed repeatedly only to persevere. Who created jobs for others.

          Another example of envy.

    2. Rick4 years ago

      I agree with doing away with the salary cap but we also need to let high earners get higher SS payments. This is not a rich vs poor solution but will go a long way towards making SS solvent.

    3. bill2 years ago

      and collect to right

  81. Brad Patterson4 years ago

    A simple fix would be to raise the payroll cap on Social Security.

    1. Rick4 years ago

      Totally agree

  82. Donald4 years ago

    Must change retirement age to reflect health of older retires,average age of death is now 85-90

    1. Kris4 years ago

      Which companies are hiring 65 year old computer programers, 67 year old roofers and 66 year old nurses?

      1. Barbara4 years ago


      2. Deethorn4 years ago

        Actually, many – my over 65 years old boss, president of a non-profit – my over 74 years old Mother, a senior tax preparer at H&R Block – my 78 year old uncle, a property manager. All are working full-time, or as much as they want. In fields they love and are experts at. And they all intend to continue working for the forseeable future. My father-in-law worked as a minister until he was over 80. Yes, the retirement age must be raised. And not 6 months over 6 years. That will have virtually no impact.

    2. Leslie4 years ago

      Donald, you make a big mistake in unstated assumptions.

      The average age of death in the United States in 2012 is 78.7 years of age – for someone BORN IN 2010.

      That’s the last year finalized data and calculations are available from the US Census Bureau. It uses all people, of all ages, across the US, all causes of death – including accidental at early ages.

      The older you get, the less likely the average age of death, in a given year, but only up to a certain age range, then it falls off sharply.

      It’s about 81 for women and 76 for men (all ages ranges counted, all population used, crude death rates of 2012 population estimates).

      Living longer or into an older age does NOT mean the population is healthier, or more able to work. It just means people live longer. That says nothing about HOW they live, work or die.

      A 93 year old with Alzheimer’s disease for the past 10 years would not make a good President, would he? That’s why Ronald Reagan left office at 78 years of age – our current average age of death.

      P.S. Most people who draw Social Security benefits still pay income taxes on some of that income.

      1. Kathy h4 years ago

        Leslie: I think history will show that the reason why Ronald Reagan left office at 78 years of age was because he was term limited to two four-year terms.

  83. denny powers4 years ago

    what happens to the benefits from people that pass away shortly after they start to draw from ssi

    1. Leslie4 years ago

      frank’s link answers the question for a single monthly payment.

      You draw a monthly Social Security check in any month for the prior month’s benefit due you. The month anyone dies, their check is their’s or their heirs. Then Social Security stops. No check is issued the following month after the month when someone dies.

      All benefits for people who die, stop when they die. If they are married their spouse, or divorced, their qualified former spouse, or children who are of a certain age or disabled – THOSE benefits can continue, or start later in the survivor’s life.

      A spouse who has never worked – will never qualify for Social Security benefits of their own, can still draw Social Security as a widow/widower, or former spouse (divorced). The benefit is smaller and the group of individuals these benefits go to is quite small among all Social Security beneficiaries.

      1. Cindy3 years ago

        I think that our government is not good at handling money or social security contributions. So much money contributions for so many years will be just gone in 2033? Any company’s insurance policies or annuity policies are much better than that. Baby boomers contributed a lot more money in the past. Now when that’s time for them to get benefits, the money just gone!!! That’s really unfair. In my opinion, better let people handle their own retirement plan. That will be much, much better. Our government is not competent in investing the contributed money entrusted to them, especially in this matter. If just increases tax or remove the cap, the money may meet the quota for a very short time, and will soon diminish in not too long futures. Why just remove the social security tax and let workers to use the money to do their own investing for retirement??

        1. Gus2 years ago

          Yeah, right. Maybe the average individual could have invested in the bubble or maybe the invested in real estate in 2008. People are not savvy enough to invest on their own behalf. But the larger point you are missing is that the SS system is tilted to disportionately help those low wage earners who can not contribute much to the overall pot, to at least have a tolerable existence upon retirement. They could never have invested sufficiently on their own to generate the income they get under SS. Yes it is wealth transfer, but for a very good reason.

          1. bill2 years ago

            Then why are the 1s that pasted the laws not forced to be in the program