Letter to Rep. Tom Cole: Social Security is Not 'Closing in on Bankruptcy'

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Written by Dean Baker   
Monday, 13 February 2012 13:30

The Honorable Tom Cole
2458 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-3604

Dear Representative Cole:

In a recent column calling for entitlement reform, you wrote that Social Security is “…closing in on bankruptcy.” This is not true. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that Social Security will be able to pay full benefits through the year 2038 and will be able to pay almost 80 percent of full benefits for decades afterwards.

As you point out in your column, the CBO noted that higher projected costs for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid stem partly from aging and partly from “rising costs for health care.” In fact, it is easy to show that the latter – our broken private health care system – is the main problem. The United States pays more than twice as much per person for health care than the average in other wealthy countries. If Americans paid the same for health care as people in other countries, we would see budget surpluses over the long term, not deficits. 

As a member of the House Appropriations and Budget Committees, it is crucial that you accurately describe vital programs like Social Security and its relationship to debt and deficits.  If I can provide you with further information or background on this, I would be happy to do so.