Friday, February 20, 2009

Is Social Security Really Disappearing?

On Wednesday, I attended the National Academy of Social Insurance briefing, "Social Security, Medicare and the Long-term Budget". Three Social Security experts discussed the important distinction between healthcare and Medicare reform and also described social security as what it is: the most efficient program implemented by the federal government.

Some people get the healthcare system and Social Security confused, and consider them one in the same. In fact, they are two separate systems, one (healthcare) – desperately in need of reform, the other (social security) -- not in crisis.

Currently, estimates show that Social Security has a surplus of $186 billion and this surplus will continue until 2026 when reserves will then be used to pay benefits. Even if nothing changes in terms of policy and regulations the reserves will last until 2041. So, why question the longevity and sustainability of Social Security?

The truth is Americans can afford to support the baby boomers through their retirement in the short term and then some. Social Security should be protected and strengthened and the panelists at the NASI event offered a variety of potential policy solutions. The solvency of Social Security, however, is not today’s more pressing issue. What people should be asking is how can we ensure that elders aren’t living on Social Security payments alone? Today, one in five elders cite Social Security as their sole source of income, and with the average annual Social Security payment of about $11,000 these elders are not making ends meet.


Katharine said...

This is really encouraging knowing that the baby boomer generation can be financially supported. With the media's talks about deficits and discussions of debt in the trillions, it's comforting knowing that in the short term people can be taken care of.

Martha Holstein said...

I think it is essential that we launch a systematic effort to defuse the "entitlement crises" that then permits policymakers to propose and perhaps make changes far more radical than are needed especially for social security. There are relatively modest changes that can be made that are both progressive and preservative of the one guaranteed source of income that many people have, especially older women. Let's organize.

Martha Holstein