THE REAL COST OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE

Apr 22nd, 2012 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Social Security & Medicare

The national conversation, sponsored by AARP, on the future of Social Security and Medicare posts a comment daily on their Facebook pageYou’ve Earned a Say asks senior citizens to respond to a few questions and then add comments about their Social Security and Medicare concerns.  One of the comments from Wisconsin said this, “Do not increase the debt, and the fiscal burden on our children, by spending more on Social Security or Medicare.”

As the late Mike Wallace would say, “Really!”

The misguided seniors in America who still believe the debt crisis can be addressed through changes in Social Security and Medicare just don’t read the facts. Take a look at the graph on page 83 of the 2011 Annual Report from the Board of Trustees of (Medicare) the Federal Hospital Insurance and Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Funds.  When you look at the cost of Medicare and income rates as a percentage of taxable payroll in 2085, the variation in highest and lowest projections is very small, and the deficits actually begin to decrease after 2085 if the current law remains unchanged.  “By the end of the 75-year period, this differential would be only about 0.6 percent of taxable payroll and would continue to decline thereafter under current law.”  {2011 Annual Report from Board of Trustees of (Medicare), page 84}.

That’s the Medicare issue.  Social Security is no different.  Remember, the Trust Fund now exceeds $2.6 trillion.  The problem is that Congress has ‘borrowed’ from the Trust Fund over the years, with no plan to pay back the money.  In other words, Congress has borrowed from senior citizens’ retirement fund, without our permission and with no plan to pay it back.  A plan has to be created to repay the Social Security Trust Fund.  The debt crisis cannot be blamed on Social Security costs when the truth is that Congress hasn’t paid back what it borrowed.

The Christian Science Monitor blogger, Jared Bernstein, says this about the Social Security and Medicare ‘crisis’:  “…some of the folks who make the ‘trillions in unfunded liabilities’ argument do so to make it seem like we can’t afford social insurance, which is nonsense.”  (Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2011)  Bernstein says there are two things the people yelling about ‘unfunded liabilities’ are doing:

  1. Yelling ‘trillions’ in a crowded theater; and
  2. Calculate the shortfall in an infinite time horizon; that’s just a bad way to analyze policy.

Those doing the yelling about Social Security and Medicare are using scare tactics based on distortions once again.  Sigh.  It isn’t working for those of us who take the time to get the real facts.  And we’re going to continue to shed the light of day on the real facts.



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  1. [...] is another ‘straight talk’ about the real cost of Social Security and Medicare.  A lot of distortions are on the block in this [...]

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