If you’ve been following the debate over a so-called “grand bargain” to cut the long-term deficit, you may have been surprised to hear Social Security mentioned by both the GOP and the president, as if the program is part of what Republicans call our “spending problem.” It isn’t.
“Under the law Social Security is not supposed to be part of the budget,” writes Dean Baker, an economist and the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “It is an entirely separate program financed on its own.”
And as a self-funded program, it has sufficient funds to pay full benefits until 2033. After that, it is funded to pay 75 percent of obligated benefits.
Basically, there isn’t a crisis now and won’t be for 20 years.
The problem is, not enough Americans seem to know this. But a new study from the National Academy of Social Insurance (PDF) shows that when citizens are informed about the realities of Social Security, they’re comforted and willing to make changes to make the program solvent into the future.
A majority initially responded that Social Security was in “crisis.” But once informed of the slight increase in payroll taxes needed to save the program, 3 out of 4 said there is no crisis.
And while 82 percent of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to save Social Security, there is, of course, an even more popular alternative.