Counting on Social Security?
Most Americans already know that Social Security is in trouble. Demographic shifts and an aging population have undermined the unspoken foundation of the system, which is the practice of taxing younger generations to pay benefits for current retirees. Younger generations, however, simply aren’t big enough to pay for the millions of baby boomers who will begin retiring in the next decade. When Social Security began in the 1930s, many Americans never reached age 65. Today, however, millions of retirees live well into their eighties and nineties. These realities mean the current system could collapse in as little as twenty to thirty years.
Still, the problem seems vague and faraway for most. Today’s seniors hope the system will hold together for the remainder of their lives, while younger working people hope government will somehow fix things before they retire. Not surprisingly, Congress doesn’t want to face the problem until it becomes an acute crisis. It’s hard to sell voters on austerity today to avoid a relatively distant problem. Politicians usually operate on the opposite principle, by promising great things now and leaving the bills for others to pay later.
This means the greatest threat to your Social Security retirement funds is Congress itself. Congress has never required that Social Security tax dollars be kept separate from general revenues. In fact, the Social Security “trust fund” is not a trust fund at all. The dollars taken out of your paycheck are not deposited into an account to be paid to you later. On the contrary, they are spent immediately to pay current benefits, and to fund completely unrelated federal programs. Your Social Security administration “account” is nothing more than an IOU, a hopeful promise that enough younger taxpayers will be around to pay your benefits later.
This unconscionable system allows Congress to raid Social Security revenues for every conceivable pork spending project. Unless we change the spending culture in Washington, your retirement dollars will never be secure. At the very least, Congress needs to pass legislation requiring that Social Security revenues be spent only for payment of benefits.
Furthermore, Congress needs to ensure that Social Security benefits are paid to American citizens only. In December, the national press reported on a deal looming between the administration and the Mexican government that would allow Mexican citizens who worked in the U.S.- even illegally- to qualify for Social Security benefits. A so-called “totalization” system would permit Mexican workers to add years worked in Mexico to those in the U.S. when qualifying for benefits. Unless Congress acts, the administration will begin using Social Security dollars to fund a global welfare system!
This outrageous proposal is projected to cost the already fragile Social Security system more than one billion dollars annually just for starters. Social Security was designed to provide retirement income for American citizens who worked in the United States. Paying benefits to noncitizens is an insult to millions of Americans who pay into Social Security their entire lives, pledge their loyalty to America as citizens, yet now face the possibility of a bankrupt system when they retire.
All American taxpayers should be very concerned about congressional spending raids and global giveaways of Social Security dollars. Unless real spending constraints are imposed now, the Social Security dollars that millions of Americans rely on may vanish before they retire.