Social Security Monitor reports on misleading statements and lies about Social Security in the media and by politicians and officials.

 

The Honorable Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, TX 78711

Dear Governor Perry,

At a recent campaign stop in Iowa, you said that you are open both to raising the retirement age for Social Security and limiting benefits for upper-income people, or means-test the program. You summed up these suggestions by saying, “With no changes, [Social Security] won’t be there for [younger Americans] when they retire.”

A closer examination of Social Security and how benefits are distributed shows that these statements are not accurate. In fact, Social Security will be there for future generations even with no changes. And means testing the program for affluent beneficiaries would actually be an unnecessary cut in benefits for millions of retirees.  

The facts are straight-forward. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038. Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on and will indeed be there for younger Americans.

Also worthy of consideration is that the vast majority of Social Security beneficiaries are lower- to middle- income people. The number of beneficiaries considered affluent is far too small to raise any significant amount of revenue through means testing and in the process, the program’s administrative costs would actually go up.

Social Security has continued to be a topic of debate during this campaign season. I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program as you prepare future public statements on the topic. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Doc Hastings,
1203 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Representative Hastings,

At a recent town hall in your district you said that Social Security needs “significant reform” and, among other things, that people are living longer and that the ratio of workers to beneficiaries has changed.

As a matter of fact, changes have already been made to Social Security. Based on the recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983, Congress increased the normal retirement age to 67 and Social Security taxes were raised. This was done precisely because the commission recognized that people were living longer and the ratio of workers to beneficiaries was getting smaller. This in turn led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds.

The result of these changes is that the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show Social Security will maintain full solvency through the year 2038 with no changes to the current system.  Even after 2038, the program will still be able to pay about 80 percent of full benefits from then on.

As a member of Congress, I hope that you will be careful to present the situation more accurately in future statements to your constituency and the general public. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Mike Coffman
1222 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Coffman,

During a recent radio interview, you agreed with Governor Rick Perry’s assertion that Social Security is a “Ponzi Scheme.” This comparison has little basis in fact.

At its most basic level, Ponzi schemes are based upon the deceptive premise that for a small investment, investors will receive enormous returns. The real outcome with such schemes is often no return at all.

This is clearly not the case with Social Security.

Social Security is not based on any deception. You can find all the information you want about the program’s past, current and projected future finances in great detail in the annual Social Security trustees report. You will never find this sort of transparency with a Ponzi scheme.

Social Security has provided substantial benefits for retirees since its inception. Moreover, even if Congress makes no changes at all to the program, the latest CBO projections show that Social Security will remain fully solvent through 2038 and would pay about 80 percent of full scheduled benefits from then on, indefinitely. A program that will continue to provide retirement security for millions of people for years to come hardly fits the description of a Ponzi scheme.

As the discussion over Social Security continues, I hope that you will be careful to present the situation more accurately in future public statements. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Paul Ryan
1233 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Ryan:

During a recent interview on The Laura Ingraham Show, you made a number of remarks about Social Security, among them, characterizing Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," that would yield a negative rate of return, and saying, “…[Social Security] is not working, it is going bankrupt, and that current seniors will be jeopardized the most by the status quo.” None of these statements are accurate.

Almost no one will get a negative real return on their Social Security taxes. This issue has been researched extensively and assuming a 2 percent real discount rate, even as late as 2030, most new retirees will receive more in benefits than they paid in taxes. There is simply no basis for the claim that beneficiaries will receive negative returns on their taxes as the value of scheduled benefits actually rises in later years since life expectancy, and therefore the expected period of retirement, will continue to increase. The only way we would see negative returns would be if Congress voted to cut benefits.

In fact, if Congress makes no changes at all to the program, the latest CBO projections show that Social Security will remain fully solvent through 2038 and would pay about 80 percent of full scheduled benefits from then on, indefinitely. It is quite difficult to make the case that a system that pays full benefits for the next 27 years is not working or is going bankrupt, let alone claim that it jeopardizes the retirement security of current seniors.

As Chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and charged with making recommendations about our nation’s finances, I hope that you will be careful to present the situation more accurately in future public statements. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

A new report from CEPR suggests that changing the indexation formula for Social Security benefits — a cost-cutting suggestion often brought up on the campaign trail and in D.C. — would actually significantly reduce the living standard of retirees. The report, written by Dean Baker and David Rosnick, also points out that Social Security benefits relative to lifetime earnings have already been cut for those retiring this year or in the near future.

The report, “The Impact of Cutting Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments on the Living Standards of the Elderly,” examines the effect of using the chained consumer price index or C-CPI-U as the basis for measuring inflation to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits. For Social Security beneficiaries, these changes would mean a decrease in benefits of 3 percent in 10 years, 6 percent in 20 years and 9 percent after 30 years of retirement. Since the vast majority of retirees rely on Social Security for the bulk of their retirement income, this cut in the cost-of-living adjustment would imply a substantial reduction in the standard of living of retirees, unless they offset it by saving more during their working years or retiring later in life.

Since it's difficult to predict how workers in future years will adjust their behavior to a cost-of-living adjustment, Dean and David looked at changes to the CPI in the mid and late 1990s and how workers responded to those changes. The report shows that these changes to the CPI meant that 10 years after they went into effect, retirees were receiving a benefit 5 to 7 percent lower than would have been the case without any changes.

CEPR has two new issue briefs this month tackling the debate over Social Security, both addressing the argument over the program's funding. Many workers do not know that any annual wages above $106,800 are not taxed by Social Security. In other words, a worker who makes twice the Social Security wage cap – $213,600 per year – pays Social Security tax on only half of his or her earnings, and one who makes just over a million dollars per year pays the tax on only about a tenth. For the paper "Who's Above the Social Security Payroll Tax Cap?" Nicole Woo, Janelle Jones and John Schmitt examined Census Bureau data from the most recently available American Community Survey to determine how raising the Social Security cap – which would make some or all earnings above $106,800 subject to the Social Security tax – would affect workers based on gender, race or ethnicity, age, and state of residence. Raising the cap has gotten some attention as a way to help alleviate Social Security’s long-term budget shortfall. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders plans to introduce legislation to keep the current cap at $106,800, but to also apply the Social Security payroll tax to earnings over $250,000.

In "The Social Security Benefits of Sitting Senators Revisited," Kris Warner, Alan Barber and Dean Baker updated CEPR's previous paper (incorporating the newest CBO projections) to show the scheduled Social Security benefit for each current member of the Senate. Some politicians – such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Perry of Texas – have recently said that Social Security is bankrupt and will not be there for them or their children. This is not an accurate assessment. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that Social Security will remain fully solvent through 2038. Even if Congress makes no further changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from 2039 on.

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss
416 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510

Dear Senator Chambliss,

While discussing Social Security at a recent town hall in Carroll County, Georgia, you told the audience:

“It needs to be reformed so it’ll be there for the next generation.”

In actuality, it will be there for your children and grandchildren. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds, and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038.

Even without any changes whatsoever to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from 2039 on. Put another way, if your children — currently in their 30s — were to retire at the age of 67, even after Social Security faces projected partial shortfalls beginning in 2039, they would still receive benefits of $32,911 and $34,904 (both in 2011 dollars) respectively, every year, for the rest of their lives. Clearly Social Security will be there for them and millions of other Americans.

As a member of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, tasked in part with oversight of Social Security, I hope you and your staff will take the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program. If you would like any additional background on Social Security, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Jeb Hensarling
129 Cannon House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Dear Rep. Hensarling,

During a recent exchange outside of the Lakewood Country Club in Dallas, Texas, you were asked by members of the crowd about Social Security and other social insurance programs. You said:

"I want to change it…. I don't want Social Security to go bankrupt."

As it turns out there is little cause for concern. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038. Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on.

If you were to retire at the normal retirement age for a person born in 1957, you would initially get a benefit of $34,802 (in 2011 dollars) per year through 2038 and starting in 2039, a benefit of $27,842 (also in 2011 dollars) each year for the rest of your life. Clearly a program that is projected to pay substantial benefits for decades to come is not in danger of bankruptcy.

Inside the country club, it was reported that you told the Greater East Dallas Chamber of Commerce that the budget crisis is fueled by growth in entitlement spending. In fact, under the law, Social Security can only spend money that came from its designated tax or the interest on the bonds held by its trust fund. It has no legal authority to spend one dime beyond this sum. In that sense it cannot contribute to budget deficits or the national debt.

As a co-chair of the “super committee” tasked with providing the rest of Congress recommendations on the nation’s deficit, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the Social Security program. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
State Insurance Building
1100 San Jacinto
Austin, TX 78711-2428

Dear Governor Perry,

When asked about Social Security during a recent campaign stop in Iowa, you said:

"It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they're working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie," Perry said. "It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can't do that to them."

With all due respect, this is not true. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038.

Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on. This means, for example, that if your children — currently 28 and 25, respectively — were to retire at age 67 and do as well as you have in their working careers, they would receive $38,145 and $39,410 (in 2011 dollars) each, every year, for the rest of their lives. It is clearly inaccurate to say that this program will not exist for young people.

With Social Security sure to be a topic of debate over the course of your campaign, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Marco Rubio
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Rubio:

During a recent speech at the Reagan Library, you took issue with several aspects of the Social Security program. With all due respect, many of your assumptions about the program are incorrect and fortunately there is little cause for concern.

For instance, you mentioned the fact that your mother has paid into the Social Security system and it would be difficult to tell her that she was being kicked off the program. However, you then say of your generation

"...that if we want there to be a Social Security and a Medicare when we retire, and if we want America as we know it to continue when we retire, then we must accept and begin to make changes to those programs now, for us."

Protecting the benefits of people currently receiving Social Security benefits is commendable. However, the assertion that Social Security will not be there by the time you are eligible for it is simply wrong.

The Congressional Budget Office's projections show that the program will be able to pay full benefits through the year 2038. If the projections prove accurate, and Congress never makes any changes to the program, then Social Security is projected to be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits in subsequent years. This means that you would be able to anticipate a benefit of $40,645 in 2038 and at least $32,516 in subsequent years (both in today's dollars). In other words, the projections show that you can expect to get a substantial benefit from Social Security as long as you live.

You also implied that the ratio of workers to beneficiaries has drastically shifted from a 16-to-1 ratio when the program began to a 2-to-1 ratio in the near future. In actuality, 50 years ago, there were just five workers for every retiree. In this same 50-year span, the tax rate for Social Security has more than doubled, from 3.0 percent for the employer and employee in 1960 to 6.2 for each at present. As well, the tax base has risen considerably from $4,800 in 1961 ($30,0,000 in today's dollars) to $106,800 in 2011.

As discussion of the budget and the future of Social Security continues, I hope that you will be able to present the situation more accurately in future public statements. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Marco Rubio

317 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 2051

 

Dear Senator Rubio;

 

During a recent speech at the Reagan Library, you took issue wither several aspects of the Social Security program. Fortunately, many of your assumptions about the program are incorrect and there is little cause for concern.

 

For instance, you mentioned the fact that your mother has paid into the Social Security system and it would be difficult to tell her that she was being kicked off the program. However, you then say of your generation

 

“…that if we want there to be a Social Security and a Medicare when we retire, and if we want America as we know it to continue when we retire, then we must accept and begin to make changes to those programs now, for us.”

 

Protecting the benefits of people currently in these programs is commendable. However, the assertion that Social Security will not be there by the time you are eligible for it is simply wrong.

 

The Congressional Budget Office’s projections show that the program would face a shortfall beginning in 2039. If the projections prove accurate, and Congress never makes any changes to the program, then Social Security is projected to be able to pay almost 80 percent of scheduled benefits in subsequent years. This means that you would be able to anticipate a benefit of $40,645 in 2038 and at least $30,484 in subsequent years (both in today’s dollars). In other words, the projections show that you can expect to get a substantial benefit from Social Security as long as you live.

 

You also implied that the ratio of workers to beneficiaries has drastically shifted from a 16 to 1 ratio when the program began to a 2 to 1 ratio in the near future. In actuality, fifty years ago, there were actually just 5 workers for every retiree. In this same 50-year span, the tax rate for social security has more than doubled, from 3.0 percent for the employer and employee in 1960 to 6.2 for each at present. As well, the tax base has risen considerably from $4,800 in 1961 (`$30,000 in today’s dollars?) to $106,800 in 2010.

 

As discussion of the budget and the future of Social Security continues, I hope that you will be careful to present the situation more accurately in future public statements. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Lou Barletta
510 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Barletta:

In response to your constituents, you recently explained your position on the budgeting process. In the course of your explanation, you make the commendable and seldom heard point that the strength of Social Security depends on a strong economy and the amount of money paid into it.

However, when describing your beliefs about the national deficit, you mention Social Security as a “driver of the debt.” I would like to point out that under the law, Social Security can only spend money that came from its designated tax or the interest on the bonds held by its trust fund. It has no legal authority to spend one dime beyond this sum. In that sense it cannot contribute to budget deficits or the national debt.

As a freshman member of the House of Representatives who has made budgetary concerns a top priority, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of Social Security. If you would like any additional background on the program in the future, I would be happy to assist you.

Sincerely,
Dean Baker

The Washington Post increased its attacks on Social Security over the weekend. One article stated how Social Security's disability program is "pushing the financially strapped system toward the brink of insolvency," while an op-ed by Eric Cantor blamed lack of economic growth on "unsustainable entitlement commitments." Over at Beat the Press, Dean Baker picked apart each piece. In a recent column, Dean asked "Why Is President Obama So Anxious to Cut Social Security?" We're starting to wonder the same thing about the Post.

Governor Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney for President
585 Commercial St
Boston, MA 02109

Dear Governor Romney:

While campaigning at the Iowa State Fair, you were asked by a member of the crowd if you support raising the cap on payroll taxes, so that the rich pay more into the system. You responded by saying "…When it comes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, the truth is that we need to make sure we can keep the promises we're making to 20 and 30 year olds. You may say we should just raise everyone's taxes. Do you know what the tax rate would have to be if we wanted to keep the promises we made? Right now those programs take a payroll tax out of earnings of 15.3 percent. That would have to rise to 44 percent. We're not going to do that."

Actually, according to the Congressional Budget Office, there is no need for an increase in Social Security taxes through 2038, a full 17 years after the last date you could possibly be in the White House. In 2050, when today's 20 and 30 year olds will be in or near retirement, the combined Social Security and Medicare tax rate would be 17.3; in 2085, the tax rate would be 22.5 percent, assuming that no changes are ever made in these programs and their costs follow the trustees' projections.

Neither of these rates approaches the 44 percent you mentioned at the State Fair. The necessary tax rate would be even less if the Social Security tax cap was set at 90 percent of wage income as suggested by the Greenspan Commission in 1983.

As a candidate for President of the United States whose decisions could have a tremendous impact on vital programs like Social Security and Medicare, I hope that you will be careful to present the facts more carefully in the future. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

Best Regards,

Dean Baker


Dean Baker
Co-Director
Center for Economic and Policy Research

Now that the debt-ceiling debate is over, it's apparently time to focus on how much politicians should cut from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - at least that's what the New York Times and NPR would like us to believe. In a piece on Obama and the budget, the New York Times featured the opinion of a former senior adviser to Sen. McCain who wants to cut Social Security but (as Dean Baker pointed out in Beat the Press) not a single economist who will tell you the real problem with the economy: a lack of demand. NPR was a little more sneaky, explaining that the debt is actually $211 trillion, not $14 trillion! And it's Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid's fault! Before you panic, Dean debunks the methodology here
The Honorable John Kerry
218 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Kerry:

In a recent interview you said that our nation's problem is one of "long-term debt." You described this debt as "...the structural debt of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid measured against the demographics of our nation. That then juxtaposed to the lack of jobs and job creation and growth."

In reality, this is not the case. Social Security does not contribute to the debt in either the short-term or long-term. Under the law, Social Security can only spend money that was raised through the designated Social Security tax or from interest on the bonds purchased with this money. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that the program can pay full benefits through the year 2038 and slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits in subsequent years.

However, this projected gap can only be made up by additional funding approved by Congress. If there are no legislated changes and this projection proves accurate, then less than the full benefit will be paid, and therefore Social Security will not be contributing to the deficit even in the years after it is first projected to face a shortfall.

While it is true that the lack of jobs and jobs creation is significantly impeding the growth of our economy, Social Security is not. And as the discussion over Social Security continues in Congress, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator McConnell:

A recent article noted that you called for significant entitlement reform. You went on to say of Social Security that, "We have to adjust the trajectory of these very significant entitlement programs, or they're not going to be there at all."

With all due respect, this is not true. The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983 led to the growth of a large surplus in Social Security. This surplus was used to buy bonds and now Social Security holds more than $2.6 trillion in government bonds. As a result, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2038.

Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will be able to slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on. There is little to debate about this. A program that is fully solvent for a quarter century and then is more than 80 percent funded in subsequent decades hardly seems like a major problem that needs to be addressed in an economy with 9.1 percent unemployment. Furthermore, it is clearly inaccurate to say that it "not going to be there at all."

As the discussion over Social Security continues, I hope you and your staff will have the opportunity to further review the design and finances of the program. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Washington Post wrote in a recent story about the debt deal that "critics in China and elsewhere" have "complained that the last-minute agreement will not tackle the dangers that national health and retirement programs pose to the government’s long-term fiscal health." Dean Baker over at Beat the Press asks the important question: Who are these critics? And to that we add: Where exactly is "elsewhere"? Middle Earth? Tatooine? Well, we can play this game, too. Critics in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere disagree, stating Social Security does not now nor will it in the future contribute to the deficit.

"Congressman Brooks has stated that he knows of no Republican plans to reduce Social Security benefits people are getting right now. Proposals for changing the inflation measure for COLA’s could possibly reduce future increases in benefits.  We understand that many may consider this a “reduction” in benefits rather than “not increasing”. Either way, since it is a change in current policy, the point made by Mr. Baker is well-taken.  Congressman Brooks will consider this carefully as plans are made to move the country toward a more sound financial footing.  He stands by his fundamental position of doing whatever is necessary to protect the dependent, retired population.  Most importantly, this means preventing the government from going bankrupt.

The sad fact is, the latest budgeting agreement passed in Congress in conjunction with raising the debt ceiling is totally inadequate and keeps America solidly on the path to bankruptcy.  The plan cuts a mere $22 Billion in 2012 from a $1500 Billion dollar deficit .  If we go bankrupt, everything we care about is at risk.  Doubling everyone’s income taxes would not eliminate the deficit.  Removing the "Bush tax cuts for the wealthy" would raise only $80 Billion/year.  Both these results assume no impact on economic growth.  No, we can't tax our way out of this problem.  Congressman Brooks knows we have to grow our way out of this problem as well as cut unnecessary spending.  He will work to remove the roadblocks that prevent our people, the private sector, from creating the wealth we need to support our social programs."

Mark R. Pettitt, P.E. , Chief of Staff, Office of Congressman Mo Brooks

Read the original letter here.

The Honorable Mo Brooks
1641 Longworth Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Brooks:

Responding to a letter campaign from a large number of your constituents asking you to stand up for and support Social Security, you recently said, "I haven't seen a proposal by anybody that hurts anyone receiving Social Security or Medicare."

Actually, one such proposal has emerged in the context of deficit reduction talks, namely, changing the inflation measure of Social Security Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs). This would involve changing the index for calculating the cost of living to a new index, known as the “chained consumer price index” (CCPI). The CCPI typically shows a rate of inflation 0.3 percentage points less than the CPI currently used to adjust benefits.

A reduction of 0.3 percent in benefits may seem small, but this will accumulate through time. After being retired 10 years, benefits will be almost 3.0 percent lower with the CCPI. After 20 years the loss will be near 6 percent, and after 30 years the reduction in benefits will be close to 9 percent. This is a serious loss of income for seniors, the vast majority of whom rely on Social Security for most of their income.

Your constituents have made it clear that they expect their elected officials to protect their benefits. As their Congressman, I thought that you should be aware of the effects changing to the chained CPI would have on Social Security. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

The Honorable John Boehner
1011 Longworth Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

Recently, you were quoted as saying, “I believe that [Senator Reid’s budget] plan is full of gimmicks. We're not making any real changes in the spending structure of our government, and it doesn't deal with the biggest drivers of our deficit and our debt, and that would be entitlement programs." However, this statement is a misrepresentation of the issue at hand as far as entitlements, and particularly Social Security, are concerned.

Under the law, the Social Security program can only spend money that comes from its designated tax or the interest on the bonds held by its trust fund. It has no legal authority to spend one dime beyond this sum. In that sense it cannot contribute to the deficit.

The program was designed this way in part to maintain solvency. The Social Security trustees’ projections show that the program will maintain full solvency through the year 2036. Even if Congress never makes any changes to the program, Social Security will always be able to pay close to 80 percent of scheduled benefits from then on.

As the Speaker of the House, it is critical that you and your staff are aware of the fact that Social Security and other social insurance programs have no place whatsoever in the debt ceiling debate. If you would like any additional background on the program, I would be happy to assist you.

Don't take our word for it, it's right here. The article is about the failed budget compromise between Obama and House Speaker Boehner, which would have included "significant future savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security." The New York Times is calling this deal a "lost opportunity" since the growth of these programs is "driving long-term projections of unsustainable debt." Dean Baker over at Beat the Press points out it's not the programs that are the problem, it's growing health care costs and misinformation over Social Security.

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