Letter to House Speaker Boehner on Budget Comments

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Written by Dean Baker   
Thursday, 28 July 2011 11:00
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.