Did the government make a Social Security goof?

Academics warn that agency officials are using outdated calculations and have severely overestimated the money available for retirees.

By Bruce Kennedy Jan 8, 2013 12:32PM

Image: Social Security Card (Comstock)The fiscal cliff has been averted for the moment, and Congress is continuing its latest game of financial chicken with a new target in sight: the upcoming debt ceiling. But two academics say all this political brawling is taking attention away from another crisis looming on the nation's horizon: Social Security.


Samir Soneji is a demographer and professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and Gary King is a professor of government at Harvard. On Sunday, the two boiled down their recent findings in an opinion piece for the New York Times.


According to King and Soneji, the Social Security Administration has grossly underestimated the money it needs for retiring Americans "to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget."


And if nothing is done, they say, the Social Security trust fund will run out two years ahead of current government predictions.


The professors say two major issues have led to these serious miscalculations.


The government’s forecasting methods for Social Security have barely changed since the program’s creation during the Great Depression -- "even as a revolution in big data and statistics has transformed everything from baseball to retailing."


And that outdated mode of forecasting, the professors note, has failed to take into account crucial factors about longevity -- especially the fact that Americans are living longer and healthier lives. Better treatment of cardiovascular diseases and a dramatic decline in smoking, they say, "are adding years of life that the government hasn’t accounted for."


The professors believe the nation faces some stark choices if Social Security is to be saved. Among the options they suggest are raising the retirement age to as high as 69 or 70, increasing payroll taxes, limiting annual cost-of-living adjustments and reducing benefits.


They also point to new research that suggests that retirement, while popular, may in itself reduce a person’s life span "by breaking lifelong routines and disrupting deep social connections." And with that research in mind, they wonder if retirement should be optional.


Given modern demographics and statistical analysis, professors Soneji and King think now is a great time to open a public debate about Social Security’s future. The constant political bickering in Congress may make this suggestion seem odd, they say -- but "the longer we ignore the problem," they warn, "the more disruptive any change will need to be to keep Social Security alive."


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999Comments
Jan 8, 2013 4:34PM
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ken vanderbilt is 100% correct -- gov't should pay all the iou's they have "borrowed"---and---if you never paid into it as an individual, then why the hell are you able to take money out of it-----it is a self paid into fund---no gov't money goes into it---we worked all our lives, paying into it and by god, it is our money we get-----LEAVE IT TO HELL ALONE, IT IS OUR MONEY, NOT GOV. MONEY----PAY BACK WHAT YOU OWE IT, AND SHUT UP ABOUT IT 
Jan 8, 2013 4:34PM
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If the Government would pay back the money it borrowed, it should last another hundred years!!!!!
No mater what.  Tell the thieves to pay there debt to SS back.  They are really good at slight of hand.
Jan 8, 2013 4:32PM
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How can you expect any calculations coming out of WASHINGTON to be correct?

 THERE NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF BOZOS, HALF OF THEM WOULD NOT LAST IN THE REAL JOB MARKET THAT THE ONES THAT PAY FOR THESE BOZOS WORK IN.

WE NEED BUSINESS MINDED PEOPLE NOT LAWYERS RUNNING THIS COUNTRY.

HAS ANY LAWYER REALLY HELPED YOU?

Jan 8, 2013 4:31PM
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lets increase the amount of take in revenue above the $110100 dollars cap limit......since they just increased the tax break to people under $400,000 ...otherwords workers now are only taxed on money they make up to $110,100 dollars and no more...

 

THEN  HAVE THE GOVERNMENT PUT IN 1 CENT ON EVERY DOLLAR TAKEN IN FOR GAS TAXES INTO A S.S. TRUST FUND  ....TO BE USED FOR SS ONLY....

 

THIS will do it....

Jan 8, 2013 4:29PM
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These professors are just trying to make a living.  It's the old "publish or perish" principle endemic to academia.  They just had to write something new or different.  It's a rather meaningless exercise in academic number juggling.  Just don't get your knickers in a twist over it.
Jan 8, 2013 4:28PM
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I'M NOT A  **** OR DONKEY BUT THE DEMOCRATS NEED TO PAY BACK ALL THAT THE MONEY THEY BORROWED FROM S.S. PLUS INTEREST AND SEE HOW WE STAND
Jan 8, 2013 4:27PM
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try giving it to retirees instead of disabilitie payments to people that can work. and why is if a man

dies or killed his children get ssi payments till 18 shouldn't that be welfare

Jan 8, 2013 4:25PM
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Read an article by the worlds oldest living man a few months before he died.  He made a very clear point and it was to never retire.  He said eating but two meals a day, always walking around with a hungry feeling in the pit of his stomach, and working at a job he enjoyed were his secrets to living to 114.  As much as we all like to work I don't think employers would want many 90 year olds hanging out on the showroom floor or working the construction site.  But then again who do these new breed American employers want.  Mexicans, Chinese, Koreans. anybody who has no skills or knowledge to do better for themselves and they can throw away at their whim.  Lets face it the rich International Corporations own this country as well as the politicians they pay to allow them to degrade more of us and keep us at a subsistance level the better they like it. And like many fools who keep voting these same politicians in and who continue lying to those voters about how much they care the longer the road gets for most Americans.
Jan 8, 2013 4:24PM
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The government has been using Soc Sec fund as an ATM for years...they have never put any money back in the account...they thought it would magically appear...IDIOTS!
They always take care of the Unions , but never Social Security...well it has reared it's head!....
Jan 8, 2013 4:24PM
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Another Dirty Little Secret - The higher the retirement age, the more would be SS recipients will end up on Disability .  This includes both physical labor as well as mental labor jobs. You can shift people from one program to the other - but it all costs.  From what I understand, a person getting disability would receive more in benefits than someone on standard social security.

 

Jan 8, 2013 4:24PM
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How about we make the congress & the House of Rep collect social security, I bet they can fix it then!!!!!!

Plus put them all on Obamacare and I bet they can fix this also..........

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People, SS will continue to limp along with no real upgrades or clean up of waste and fraud.  SS is the bedrock by which the Democratic party can exist and keep manipulating their base, it is exactly where they want it and therefore no real change will take place, ever.
Jan 8, 2013 4:22PM
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The biases of the professors are clear when you note that there is no mention of lifting the cap on social security tax, so that the person who makes 10 gadzillion pays SS on all rather than just the first $110k or so.
Jan 8, 2013 4:22PM
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I BELIEVE THAT OUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE TO LIVE ON WHAT THE POPULATION DOES. IF THEY DON'T WORK NO PAY, NO PAID VACATIONS, IF THEY TRAVEL LET THEM PAY THEIR OWN WAY NOT OUT OF TAX PAYERS MONEY. GO BACK TO USING WOODEN CHAIRS & DESKS. NO CELL PHONES OR TELEPHONES IN THE ROOM LIKE BUSINESSES DO. NO CALL NO SHOW FIRE THEM ON THE SPOT .NO SPECIAL PLANES, LIMOUSINES. HAIR DRESSERS, MAKE UP, COOK THEIR OWN MEALS. EAR PIECES SO THEY KNOW WHAT TO SAY, GET RID OF FREE LOADERS. NO GIVING MONEY TO OTHER COUNTRIES BECAUSE THEY ARE HARD UP WELL SO ARE THE AMERICANS. BRING OUR ARMED SERVICES HOME. DEFEND OUR BORDERS NOT SOME ONE ELSES. SEND ALL THE ILLEGALS HOME CUT OFF THEIR MONEY SUPPLY, DOCTORS, AND IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO SPEAK ENGLISH DEPORT THEM. KEEP OUR BUSINESSES IN AMERICA.
Jan 8, 2013 4:21PM
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Congress needs to pay back all the money they borrowed from SS, greedy some bitches been borrowing from it for years, and your right slim, they need to get their s--t togwther and realize they aint nothing special, former presidents too, why pay for their security, they are done,  regular joes just like the rest of us.
Jan 8, 2013 4:21PM
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It's simple, just remove the cap on income,  so the rich can't shield millions of dollars of income from ss taxes. Once that's done, then simply make the elidibility for ss payments to those making under $150,000 a year, or some agreed upon level. Social Security was designed to keep the elderly out of poverty and that's how it should be used. The ultra rich,  like Warren Buffett,  do not need ss to survive and should not get it.
Jan 8, 2013 4:20PM
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Too many people collecting that never paid IE: stay at home wifes collecting off their husbands account. Divorced spouses collecting off there x account - with sometimes 3 or 4 spouses collecting off of only one that contributed. Not only the disabled collecting, but their children collecting also. People over 62 with kids under 18 collecting for themselves and then for the kids - basically getting paid for having kids late in life. On and on it goes......clean up who is eligable, and then we will be out of the hole. God forbid we would cut the welfare payments back to all the Mamas that haven't worked a day, and all their boyfriends living off them, instead of cutting the benefits of people that actually worked all their lives and paid in.
Jan 8, 2013 4:19PM
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What do they do with all the millions of people's money that doesnt live long enough to collect their SS ? C'on man !!!!!
Jan 8, 2013 4:18PM
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So what you're saying is we could solve this by "slashing" the "defense" (I call it war) department's budget by 5% per year and putting that money into social security.  Sounds like we have a winner!
Jan 8, 2013 4:16PM
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47% don't pay taxes.There is somethihg wrong. Some people really need asistance, but a of them just don't want to work..they didn't put  into the system and they get money.    WAKE UP AMERICA
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