WASHINGTON--While Congress debates tax cuts and spending increases, the Concord Coalition today reminded lawmakers that the budget surplus projected for this year and the next decade is already earmarked--for Social Security.
"Policy makers who are lining up to spend those so-called budget surpluses should keep in mind that the money they are talking about consists entirely of Social Security's annual trust fund surpluses," said Concord Coalition Executive Director Martha Phillips. "We should be saving these surpluses to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomers, which will put a huge financial strain on future taxpayers."
A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office projects that the annual Social Security trust fund surplus and the unified federal budget surplus for the current year and the coming decade combined will both be roughly $1.6 trillion. In fact, if the Social Security trust fund surpluses are not counted, the federal government will run a combined $12 billion deficit during that period.
Concord remains concerned that the misunderstanding about the nature of the unified budget surpluses is leading to a breakdown in fiscal discipline. It is inconsistent for Congress to say that Social Security is "off-budget" while at the same time using the Social Security surplus to pay for tax cuts or new spending.
THE BOTTOM LINE
|Budget deficits and surpluses, by fiscal year|
|In billions of dollars**|
* - deficit of less than $500 million
** - totals do not add due to rounding
Source: Congressional Budget Office The Economic and Budget Outlook, An Update: August 1998