If the country ever gets around to ending life tenure for Supreme Court Justices, I hope we add a provision ending it for Washington Post columnists too. Or at least ending it for Robert Samuelson. Today, again, we see another extremely misleading op-ed from him on the fiscal health of Social Security.
Here’s a good rule of thumb – anytime you see an op-ed whining about entitlements that uses the phrase “Medicare and Social Security,” it’s safe to stop reading. Samuelson’s is no exception.
This isn’t news, but let’s repeat it for the one millionth time. There is no Social Security crisis. None.
Medicare and Social Security’s fiscal outlooks are completely different. There is no Social Security funding emergency – even after the latest trustees report. Assuming historical rates of growth, there is no shortfall whatsoever for 75 years. Even under more conservative or pessimistic economic assumptions, extremely modest tweaks eliminate the modest shortfall entirely.
And finally – Social Security is not going “bankrupt.” Even assuming 2037 is the magic date, and assuming low growth and no tinkering before then, Social Security will still be able to pay 75% of scheduled benefits.
To lump Social Security together with the more problematic Medicare shortfall (which should be addressed through national health care reform) is blatantly misleading. It’s like saying the combination of a Big Mac and a jelly bean is an extremely high-calorie meal.
But that’s exactly what Samuelson is doing. In fact, Michael Lind had a Salon column a while back outlining all the rhetorical tricks that dishonest Social Security skeptics make. It’s as if Samuelson read that column, and decided to use them all.
For instance, here’s Lind:
The anti-Social Security lobby always presents the "unfunded liabilities" of "entitlements" in scary dollar terms, rather than as percentage points of GDP. Here's why: Over the next 75 years, the Social Security shortfall at most hovers around 1 percent of total U.S. GDP over that same period.
One more time – there is no Social Security crisis, no matter how much people like Robert Samuelson dislike the level of Social Security benefits.