The Oct. 30 front-page article “Social Security adding billions to U.S. budget woes” really touched a nerve in this retired senior, especially its statement that “Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury.”
Quite to the contrary: The Treasury has sucked lots of money out of Social Security over the years. Had the Social Security trust fund been left alone, perhaps this would not now be the issue it has become.
Something must be done to keep Social Security solvent for younger people, and I am sure it can be achieved if our politicians would only do what they were elected to do.
Ed Gregerman, Silver Spring
The Post’s recent coverage of Social Security has done an important public service by exposing the lies Washington politicians have been telling about the financial condition of Social Security. Unfortunately, the true condition of the program is even worse than the reporting suggests.
In the past 20 years, the number of Americans collecting disability has more than doubled, far outpacing the number of truly disabled Americans. With 1 in 18 people currently receiving assistance, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) trust fund has been “cash negative” since 2005, and its “trust fund” is projected to be exhausted by 2018. In fact, the Social Security trustees recently urged Congress to reform the system as soon as possible.
The system today is overwhelmingly tilted toward paying benefits even when that may not be appropriate. Benefits are intended to be paid to those who cannot work, yet a recent Rand study found that marginal SSDI beneficiaries — those with the least severe impairments — are significantly more likely to work if they did not receive disability assistance. That same study found that 25 percent of disability applicants are marginal and receiving benefits by the luck of the draw.
Paying benefits to applicants who are not disabled is an affront to every taxpayer and every American who is truly disabled. Congress needs to immediately reform the entire Social Security system — especially the disability system.
Tom Coburn, Washington
The writer, a Republican from Oklahoma, is a member of the U.S. Senate.
The front-page article on Social Security distorted the facts and promotes cuts in retirement benefits that America’s working men and women have paid for throughout their working lives. The article indicated that Social Security has passed “a treacherous milestone” by going “cash negative” in 2010, but it did not mention that this happened 17 times from 1957 to 1982 and that it is neither unusual nor noteworthy. The article also raised an alarm that the parties are reluctant to pursue a fix for an eventual shortfall, yet that shortfall comes so far in the future that it’s irrelevant in terms of the nation’s current economic problems.
Social Security can pay all benefits in full until at least 2036. The funding gap after that date can be closed simply by raising the cap on wages subject to Social Security payroll contributions and by tweaking the system in relatively minor ways.
Gerald W. McEntee, Washington
The writer is president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Social Security is not a pay-as-you-go system. If it were, the Greenspan Commission in 1983 perpetrated a great fraud on us baby boomers when it proposed raising workers’ contribution rate and extending the full-retirement age from 65 to 67.
All the added money was not necessary to pay the retirees of the 1980s; instead, the commission intentionally created a surplus to be available when we retired. No one expected the government to stash the cash at Fort Knox. Rather, Congress set the money aside in the Social Security trust fund, from which it borrowed for expenses. Repayment in full is guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the United States. If Congress reneges on this solemn commitment, it will betray a generation of Americans and weaken creditors’ faith in all U.S. obligations.
Social Security is not an entitlement; it is a public insurance program. We guarantee one another against the risk that we will outlive our savings, and against the risk of investment loss. It also is not a safety-net program. Especially today, after 30 years of flat incomes and the latest 401(k) losses, it is the middle class that depends on Social Security for retirement.
Caroline Poplin, Bethesda