By Dave Lindorff
The latest report of the Social Security Administration trustees is out, and as usual they are issuing dire warnings that the Social Security system is heading for the rocks. The Trust Fund -- extra money deliberately collected from workers and employers since 1983 to build up a surplus so as to fund the cost of benefit checks to the wave of Baby Boomers who began retiring in 2011 -- will "run out" in 2034, they warn, explaining that unless something is done before then by Congress to bolster the program's funding, everyone for years would have to take a 21% cut in benefits.
Note that the program is not "going bankrupt," as hyperventilating talking heads on Fox and right-wing radio will claim. In fact, with no change in taxes or income sources Social Security would still continue to provide retiree and disability benefits at that reduced rate indefinitely from that point on just based on the funds paid into the fund by current workers at that point (which is how the program was intended to work from the time it was established in 1936).
The real point though, is that even today, in 2018, the threat of a benefit cut is still 16 years or almost a generation off.
It's not a demographic crisis. It's a crisis of Congressional corruption, deceit and spinelessness. For 20 years Congress has known this would happen, thanks to the increasing longevity of retirees and declining birthrates. If Congress had taken steps to increase funding for the system 20 or 10 or even five years ago, they'd have been minor. Now they'll have to be more dramatic.
I'm trying to think of any other problem facing the US which is 16 years away that creates such hysteria on the right, and that causes such dysfunction in Congress.
For example, we know that most of the east coast of the United States as well as the Gulf Coast, will see sea levels about six inches higher by 2034. In fact, the Mid-Atlantic states will see even worse sea level rise because the land there is still sinking quite rapidly as an after effect of the melting of the Ice Age glacier which reached down across Canada as far as New York City and Philadelphia (that mile of ice depressed the earth under it which then bulged up toe the south in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina, which are now in a process of sinking back down to their natural level).
Are Congress and the legislatures of those states working to confront the issue of their vanishing coastal regions? No. In fact, worse than doing nothing, some of those states, notably North Carolina, have passed laws making it illegal for coastal towns to take development measures to confront or remediate sea level rise. Same thing in Florida where sea level rise is even more rapid due to the expansion of ever warmer sea water. Miami Beach is already flooding at high tide, and is at risk of washing away the next time it takes a direct hit from a hurricane, yet the state government has ordered state agencies to stop using the term "climate change."