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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press How Did the NYT Decide That Social Security Is One of the Biggest Long-term Problems Facing the Country?

How Did the NYT Decide That Social Security Is One of the Biggest Long-term Problems Facing the Country?

Thursday, 28 October 2010 04:18

It sure wouldn't be obvious that the cost of Social Security is one of the biggest problems facing the country. The program's projected shortfall over the next 75 years is equal to 0.5 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This is less than one fourth of the increase in defense spending over the last decade. The share of health care spending in GDP is projected to rise by more than this every 3 years.

Dealing with global warming, a rapidly growing population of current and former prisoners, educating our children and maintaining our infrastructure all seem to pose much larger challenges than meeting the projected funding shortfall in Social Security. It is not clear why the NYT is telling readers that the growing costs of paying Social Security benefits are "one of the government’s biggest long-term challenges." The data do not appear to support this assertion.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by ComradeAnon, October 28, 2010 6:55
Because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce tells them it is the biggest problem.
written by MB, October 28, 2010 9:05
And also, there are no other areas of federal, state, local budgets or in the financial sector held to a standard of 75 yrs of projections into the future for good fiscal health. Right(?) So SS gets to look bad up against its own rigorous standards for accountability while the banks, for example, are off the hook just by not having to actually care that much about the distant future.
written by skeptonomist, October 28, 2010 1:15
Here is an illustration of the importance of Social Security compared to the rest of the budget (official buget numbers):


Off-budget receipts and outlays are mostly SS. Not only are the SS numbers much smaller, but so are the differences and the variability. Even apart from the fact that the surplus in the Trust Fund, represented by the difference between the green and purple curves, is exactly what was planned by the Greenspan commission, SS finances are just not important compared to everything else.

Maybe comprehending the numbers or graphs like this is beyond the understanding of the average voter, but it is the responsibility of the media to interpret them and call out the lying politicians and others who claim that SS is facing a crisis. Lots of pundits and editorialists are paid big salaries to pass on the lies without apparently ever looking at the data.
SS is already a big problem
written by floccina, October 28, 2010 3:26
SS is already a big problem, it taxes young workers way too much. The tax should be eliminated and other taxes raised.
written by boxer, November 03, 2010 4:46
Social Security taxes aren't the problem. The capitalist free marketeers can bust unions, import slaves, export jobs, hire temps, all to keep you living one payday at a time. Don't complain about the limited social safety net you have, you're gonna use it real soon. Yehthatso.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.