Social Security Is Not Going Bankrupt

Universities and colleges are based on free and independent inquiry. And that inquiry should be carried out not just by your professors, but by you – the students who will, quite literally, shape the world you inhabit. So let me start by asking some questions.

I should warn you: your answers will lead you to places where Rush Limbaugh, or even the TV evening news rarely goes. The Bush administration told the American people that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction and that, therefore, the United States had to wage a pre-emptive war on Iraq in self defense. Was that true? No. That assertion was false.

The Bush administration implied that that Saddam Hussein was an ally of Osama bin Laden and had some responsibility for the terrorist attack of 9/11/01. Was that true? No. That was false.

The Bush administration told us they were concerned about the environment and that the President’s “Clear Skies” program would have a positive impact upon air pollution. Was that true? No. That was false.

According to the Sierra Club, one of the large environmental groups in the country, by the fifteenth year of the Bush plan: 450,000 more tons of nitric oxide, one million more tons of sulfuric oxide, and 9.5 more tons of mercury would be allowed than under strong enforcement of Clean Air Act programs that existed before Bush made his speech announcing “Clear Skies.” The Bush administration repeatedly told the American people that they were concerned about education. Was that true? No. That was false.

The President’s new budget protects tax breaks for billionaires, but cuts funding for the Department of Education by $530 million. Among the 48 education programs that the President would terminate is the highly successful TRIO (Upward Bound and Talent Search) and Gear Up programs which enable low and moderate income kids to go to college. Now, President Bush and his administration are telling us that Social Security is in “crisis,” is “flat-busted” is “going bankrupt” and will notbe there when the younger generation needs it. Is this true? Sadly, the President once again is making a false assertion.


The Social Security Board of Trustees reported last March that Social Security-if no changes are made-can make all payments to all eligible Americans for the next 37 years. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that all benefits can be paid for the next 47 years and that with modest reforms Social Security will be viable for decades after that.

There is no credible report, none, that says Social Security is going bankrupt.In fact, the two reports I just cited say that the worst that will happen four or five decades from now is that Social Security benefits will be cut by twenty percent. Doesn’t sound like “bankruptcy” to me and that is half a century away!

Still, if you are planning on getting a job and retiring in forty or fifty years, even a cut of 20 percent is not great news. But wait: It turns out that if we make small adjustments at some point in the future Social Security will be rock-solid for over 75 years – which is as long as actuaries like to project in an area like this.

What kind of small adjustment? Well, among other things we could eliminate the cap on Social Security taxes. Right now, individuals who make millions stop paying Social Security taxes on anything over $92,000 a year.

Why does the President continue telling us that Social Security is going bankrupt when, in fact, it is not? There are two basic reasons. First, if Social Security is privatized, the President’s friends and campaign contributors on Wall Street will make billions in commissions by handling all of the new private accounts that will be established.

Secondly, the President’s extreme right-wing ideology is based on the belief that government is inherently evil and that virtually any function performed by government, including Social Security, should be privatized and run by corporations.

This President not only wants to privatize Social Security, he wants to do the same with Medicare, public education, Air Traffic Control, the postal service, the military and many other areas. Privatizing Social Security is a bad and reckless idea. It is a bad idea because Social Security has been the most successful anti-poverty program in history and has, for the last 70 years, improved the lives of millions of Americans by guaranteeing them benefits whether the stock market was up or down, or whether the economy was booming or in depression. And the beneficiaries are not just older people who are in retirement.

They are also the disabled of our country and children and widows who receive survivors’ benefits.

Social Security is strong today and, with very modest changes, will be there when you need it. Don’t let this President tell you otherwise.