For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits billions more each year.
Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes nearly $29 billion more.
Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs in the form of Treasury bonds which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg’s municipal offices.
Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come.
- The projected point at which tax revenues will fall below program costs comes in 2017 the same as the estimate in last year’s report.
- The projected point at which the Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2040 one year earlier than the projection in last year’s report.
Just two years ago, those same projections were for 2018 and 2042.
The actual time of the first projection will apparently be 2010. Same crisis, but eight years earlier, and at a time when our economy is least able to cope with it. The outlook for Medicare is even worse. Together, those two programs account for about 45% of federal spending and that’s set to rise as the ratio of workers to retirees decreases.