In the above video we see Rep. Xavier Becerra, (D) CA, make a well-reasoned argument for taking Social Security off the table when discussing raising the nation’s debt ceiling – as he put it:
“as much as I believe that Social Security should not be on the table because Social Security hasn’t contributed one cent to the deficits that we face today, nor one cent to the national debt – $14.3 Trillion – so why should Social Security, why should seniors have to pay to balance the budget through Social Security cuts? But, it should be on the table – I would fight to take it off the table – but it should start off on the table and then what should remain on the table are the things that really drove us into these deficits”
The representative then goes onto blame the Bush Tax Cuts and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the deficit/debt crisis we find ourselves in today…
It is true that annually, Social Security takes in less money than it pays out, but it has a huge trust fund, which is about $2.5 Trillion of our $14.3 Trillion national debt (as shown on this CBO web page, Table D-2) – but that portion of the debt, that estimated $2.5 Trillion, is owed to Social Security because our government borrowed it, just as we borrow from the Chinese or other lenders – not because Social Security borrowed it from elsewhere.
As noted in the conversation above, Social Security is solvent for about 25 years, but we need to start figuring out how to keep it solvent as 10,000 new retirees start collecting Social Security payments each day for the next 19 years. It is also important to remember that the benefit level seniors enjoy today far exceed the amount they paid in over their working years, and that Social Security reform is long overdue – the age of eligibility has remained almost static as life expectancy has increased dramatically, means testing is worth considering, and adjustments to the way inflation is calculated may also make sense, but these changes will need to be worked on overtime, not as part of any unrelated crisis, no matter what Rahm Emanuel says about not letting a crisis go to waste.
New York Times: Social Security to See Payout Exceed Pay-In This Year
CBO.gov: The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2010 to 2020, Appendix D Trust Funds and Measures of Federal Debt, released January, 2010
SSA.gov: Life Expectancy for Social Security
NRO.com: Means-Testing & Social Security
StrengthenSocialSecurity.org: The Chained CPI Is a Benefit Cut: The Longer You Live, The Bigger the Cut