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We Need a Mass Movement to Save and Expand Social Security and Medicare

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 1918, 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.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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