On November 21, Chris Jansing, host of the MSNBC program Jansing & Co., interviewed Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma regarding the "fiscal cliff" and budget negotiations between President Obama and the House majority.
As quoted from the transcript, Tom Cole said this:
Anyone who knows anything about the numbers knows [revenue] is not enough. If we don't reform the programs...we're going to lose those programs. We won't have Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. They're going broke. If the president got every tax increase he's asked for, those programs would still be going broke.
This statement is false, and we suspect the Congressman is aware of that fact. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office, which certainly knows something "about the numbers," has directly refuted this oft-repeated lie that Social Security is "going broke." It will, if we do nothing, but that would not happen for a long time and the matter can be corrected. Social Security can continue paying 100% of its promised benefits up until the author of this blog is eligible to collect, as a matter of fact, although the trust fund would be depleted.
Here is a link to a summary of what the CBO had to say about this in 2011.
CBO projects that the [Disability Insurance] trust fund will be exhausted in 2017 and that the [Old-Age and Survivors Insurance] trust fund will be exhausted in 2040. Once a trust fund's balance has fallen to zero and current revenues are insufficient to cover the benefits that are specified in law, the corresponding program will be unable to pay full benefits without changes in law. The DI trust fund came close to exhaustion in 1994, but that outcome was prevented by legislation that redirected revenues from the OASI trust fund to the DI trust fund. In part because of that experience, it is a common analytical convention to consider the DI and OASI trust funds as combined. CBO projects that, if legislation to shift resources from the OASI trust fund to the DI trust fund was enacted, the combined OASDI trust funds would be exhausted in 2038.To the extent that Social Security has an actual problem - outlays exceeding revenues -- the matter can be resolved without a strong imposition on taxpayers. And whether we do that or not, it needs to be re-stated that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit.
Really. It doesn't. And by putting Social Security on the table in negotiations about the budget deficit and the national debt, members of Congress are intentionally misleading the American public in order to undermine the program and move towards privatizing it. This is a major beachhead in the long, long project to undo FDR's New Deal.
It needs to be resisted. And that means journalists should be calling these players out, and President Obama should explicitly take Social Security off the table.
[Image: Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma's fourth congressional district]