Letter to Sen. Warner on Face the Nation Comments

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The Honorable Mark Warner
459a Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Warner,

On "Face the Nation" this weekend, you said "…You know, part of this is just math – 16 workers for every retiree 50 years ago, three workers for every retiree now." However, that arithmetic is incorrect.

Fifty years ago, there were actually just five workers for every retiree, TABLE IV.B2. 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 (roughly $30,000 in today’s dollars) to $106,800 in 2010, TABLE VI.A1.

You're absolutely right that this is just math, but it is important to get the math right. As one of the key Senators involved with budget negotiations and the future of Social Security, 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.