By Dave Lindorff
Katie Couric, a veteran TV journalist and currently global anchor for Yahoo News, just trashed Social Security in a hit piece misleadingly called "Explaining Social Security" that purported to be explaining the system's financial "crisis." Far from explaining the system, she trundled out tired falsehoods and scare tactics long used by the system's enemies -- notably the Republican Party and including many Democrats in the pocket of Wall Street. (Significantly, the online video was sponsored by a Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, hardly a fan of Social Security.)
First, Couric's long list of whoppers:
She claims the system works like a bank, collecting workers' Social Security payroll taxes, and stashing them under a government mattress, and then paying out the money as retirement checks when they take their retirement. This is simply not true and was never meant to be true. What actually happens, and happened from the beginning of the program in1936, is that the payroll taxes collected from current workers and their employers go to pay for the benefits of current retirees.
Couric makes it appear that greedy baby boomers are going to be sucking money out of the pockets of younger active workers to fund their retirements as though this were something new and unseemly, when in fact, retirees since 1936 have been getting their benefits paid by younger people actively in the workforce. That is the actual way the system was designed to work, not, as she suggests, as a enforced retirement savings program.
Then she highlights what she wrongly claims is the problem: that the system has gone out of whack because of the unanticipated burden of some 74 million baby boomers now beginning to retire and collect Social Security benefits, and a relatively diminished number of current workers who have to pay for those benefits.
Couric warns ominously that the $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund is being diminished to cover the annual shortfall in current payroll tax collections, and says this fund is going to eventually run out. Then she says that the program's future is "well...not secure."
This is about as disingenuous or ignorant as a journalist can be. Social Security is completely secure -- unless crooked politicians kill it. Sure the trust fund would "run out" in about 2033 if nothing was changed by Congress between now and then But Couric conveniently fails to mention that even then, taxes from current workers would be sufficient to cover 77% of the retiring boomer benefits due indefinitely until the percentage of elderly begins to decline. And remember, by 2033 the youngest baby boomer would be 69, so the wave of retirees would actually already be shrinking in relation to the active workforce, meaning the alleged "crisis" would already be resolving itself.