Saturday, August 7, 2010

There Are Myths AND Then There Are Facts

James Roosevelt, FDR's grandson, spoke at the National Press Club Friday, 6 August, 2010, about Social Security, past, present and future. He spent a good deal of his 30-minute speech speaking to the attacks on Social Security coming from the Deficit Commission. (Emphasis added.)
Now let's take a true measure of where we are. Social Security has been the most effective government program; it has been the most responsible government program. Social Security costs are funded out of its own dedicated revenue stream. It does not and cannot borrow money to finance its operations.

There is no deficit financing. Social Security is the epitome of Yankee frugality. It could not be better managed. Social Security returns more than 99 cents to beneficiaries on every dollar collected. I dare you to find a private investment plan that can claim that.

The United States does not have a social security crisis. It never did. What we do have is fear of a crisis. It is fear that has been fed by the propagation and accumulation of myths about the program. If we let our fears rule our judgment we will undo the greatest government program in our history, one that has eliminated poverty for millions of Americans and supported millions of families in time of need. This brings us to the current National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. While I am deeply supportive of President Obama's efforts to control the burgeoning federal deficit, I am deeply concerned that he has instructed that everything has to be on the table, including Social Security.

I'm afraid that by placing Social Security under the purview of the Deficit Commission we are contributing to the mythology of fear around Social Security. That mythology says the program is heading for bankruptcy and is unsustainable. That mythology says the program will not be there for our children and our children's children.

I am concerned that although Social Security contributes nothing to the deficit it will be targeted by its enemies on the commission. Its enemies have failed on their frontal assault on Social Security but now they have been given cover by a Deficit Commission.

The opponents of Social Security have been biding their time waiting for an opportunity to attack Social Security without being seen as attacking it. The Deficit Commission could be that opportunity.
As Paul Krugman recently pointed out on his blog, the deficit hawks want to have it both ways when it comes to Social Security. They want to treat Social Security as just another program in the federal budget so they don't need to credit it for the quarter century and billions of dollars worth of surpluses it has accumulated. Surpluses which of course, are denominated in those worthless IOUs anyway.

But they want to view Social Security as a program unto itself when the times come that its payments exceed its annual revenues, which we said before is projected to occur in 2017 so they can claim it is going broke.

It is completely nonsensical and deceitful to try to have it both ways.

And, so, they should not, under any circumstances be allowed to have it both ways.

Social Security must be protected.


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