Examining Social Security on Its 80th Birthday

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Social Security turned 80 on Friday, providing an opportunity to review its accomplishments while taking a hard look at its future — including the need to put the federal government’s largest program on a sustainable path.

With that in mind, The Concord Coalition released a paper last week that discusses key questions about Social Security that public officials, journalists and the public should focus on.

Social Security provides a vital floor of protection for 42 million retired workers and dependents, 11 million disabled workers and dependents, and 6 million survivors of deceased workers.

But Social Security, which had expenditures of $859 billion last year, faces major challenges.  It has been running annual cash deficits since 2010. Absent congressional action, disability benefits will be cut by 19 percent next year and retirement benefits will be cut by 23 percent in 2035.

Meanwhile, the system’s expanding gap between benefit payments and dedicated revenues will contribute to future federal deficits.

It will be easier — and more fair to younger Americans — to enact Social Security reforms sooner rather than later. Bipartisan groups have offered an array of thoughtful suggestions.

Specific questions discussed in Concord’s paper include whether the system is on sound footing for the next 80 years, whether Congress “stole” trust-fund money, and why elected officials should act now.

External links:
Social Security Video and Commissioner’s Message
4 Ways to Fix Social Security (Fiscal Times)
The Challenge Facing Social Security (Yahoo)
Debunking Eight Social Security Myths (CRFB)

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