GOP Debate: Setting The Record Straight On Social Security

Dave Johnson

During Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, here’s how CNN’s Dana Bash falsely framed a question about Social Security:

Mr. Trump, you don’t want to raise the retirement age, and you also don’t want to cut benefits even for wealthier Americans. But according to the Social Security Administration, unless adjustments are made, Social Security is projected to run out of money within 20 years.

There were other misleading questions and lots of misleading answers. So here are some facts about Social Security that can help people who are worried by these Republican lies and scare tactics.

1. Social Security is not going to “run out of money” and is not “going broke.” The Social Security Trust Fund will increase to approximately $2.9 trillion at the end of 2019. Then it begins to draw on this fund and there is a potential funding shortfall in about 20 years. If nothing is changed the program would be forced to pay a bit less out to recipients. There are many proposals for fixing this, most do not involve future cuts in benefits.

2. This shortfall (like so many of our national problems) is largely the result of income inequality. In 1983 the Alan Greenspan-led Social Security Commission correctly calculated increases in future income but did not anticipate that so much of that income would go to people “at the top.” Because income that pays into the fund is “capped” (currently at about $118,000 a year) the fund does not collect its share from that upper income, hence the shortfall.

3. Proposals to fix the problem include extending that “cap” into higher incomes. In fact, if that “cap” is eliminated, Social Security benefits could be expanded, making up for income lost as corporations shifted pension payouts to shareholder profits.

4. Social Security does not contribute to government borrowing. It can not, by law, borrow money.

A “hub” organization working on this is Social Security Works.

Campaign for America’s Future has for years been working on getting the facts out about Social Security. Here are just a few past fact sheets and posts on this subject:

Speaking Truth About Saving Social Security

What Social Security Crisis?

Social Security 10 Years From Now: A Choice of Two Futures

Cutting Social Security Benefits is Wrong Policy and Dumb Politics

The 1983 Strategy Behind Today’s Social Security Attacks

What Social Security Report SAYS vs What They Tell You It Says

Understand The Rights Attack On Social Security

Cut Social Security To Save It From Cuts

Social Security Facts vs Fog

The Real Social Security Crisis Is Income Inequality

Expanding Social Security Is Completely Affordable

Why Do So Many Elites Hate Social Security

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