Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?
Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.
The Gift Pile
Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It's got:Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.
The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we'll get to shortly), no program in US history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It's a stand-alone program which isn't allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030's.
No other program can say that.
A great profile. There's no way to say this delicately, so we'll come right out with it: Social Security has the slimmest, sleekest look in Washington. We don't like to encourage our society's fixation on thinness as the ideal of beauty, but let's face it -- Social Security is so cost-effective in delivering its benefits that it's got the most streamlined chassis around.
The Social Security Administration beats every private benefits program in the country when it comes to low overhead and efficient administrative design. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that everybody who pays into the system receives its benefits at qualification time.
There's no "means testing," no gamesmanship, no trick just trim, no-overhead service delivery.
Great polls. Time and time again, overwhelming majorities of Americans have made it clear that they don't want this program to be cut. That means a lot: Of all the gifts in the world, the best any of us can hope for is friends who will defend you to the end.
Lumps of Coal
Unfortunately, Social Security also has some "gifts" it doesn't want -- and which the American people don't want either. It's got:
Political enemies. The Republican Party is determined to dismantle it and give its enormous financial resources to Wall Street as gambling money. They failed in 2005, but they're bound to try again.
Billionaire-funded attack campaigns. These propaganda campaigns are designed to convince the public that this fiscally stable program is in dire economic danger, and to distract people from the simple and easy solutions to its long-term instability.
Why? Because those solutions involve things like asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, and imposing a tax on the Wall Street gambling that's contributed to the program's long-term shortfall.
A lazy, misleading news media. Rather than do the research themselves, too many journalists are content to repeat the misleading propaganda put out by those billionaire-funded campaigns.