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Home Publications Blogs Social Security Monitor Letter to Senator Tom Coburn on Social Security Comments

Letter to Senator Tom Coburn on Social Security Comments

Written by Dean Baker   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011 16:15

The Honorable Tom Coburn
172 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Coburn:

According to a clip that aired on a recent segment of NPR’s All Things Considered, you said that Social Security is broke because the federal government stole $2.8 trillion from the Social Security trust fund.

This assertion is mistaken. No money was stolen, and the law has been followed to the letter.

The recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform in 1983, led to the growth of a large surplus. The surplus has always been used to buy bonds.

Just as with any funds used to purchase bonds, the money is borrowed by the government, but repaid at the end of the term of the bond. Saying the government stole from Social Security is like saying the government stole from a grandparent who bought a $100 savings bond for their newborn grand-daughter, and no one believes this to be the case. The reality is that the bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. The bonds will be repaid.

Currently, the bonds making up the trust fund will be able to pay full benefits through the year 2037, and 75 percent thereafter. This is a far cry from broke.

As the discussion over Social Security continues to heat up in the coming weeks, 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, I would be happy to assist you.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by KAcers, March 16, 2011 7:55
What would be the effects of 1) removing the salary cap on which Social Security payroll taxes are paid; and / or 2) reducing or eliminating Social Security benefits for retirees whose annual income without Social Security already put them in the top tax bracket? TO what extent would one and/or both of these measures increase the future solvency of Social Security?

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