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Academics warn that agency officials are using outdated calculations and have severely overestimated the money available for retirees.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And that outdated mode of forecasting, the professors note, has failed to take into account crucial factors about longevity -- especially the fact that Americans are living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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998Comments
Jan 8, 2013 3:10PM
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And your sticking rotten liberals and democrats want to "DO NOTHING"  about this.  They have left Social Security and Medicare off the table.  When will people wake up?  The people who will want SS and Medicare 20 years down the road?  Your pathetic democrats will scare the American people with pushing granny off the cliff, instead of dealing with the problem, and saving the program.  The democrats are stabbing in the back, every single person that will try to draw on SS and Medicare.  You will have nothing to draw on.  The so called party that is for the lower and middle class will cause you to work longer and get less for "DOING NOTHING".  Wake up people. 
Jan 8, 2013 3:09PM
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you can never expect the nincompoops in congress to fix anything, they neither have the will nor the commitment to this country they are only commited to themselves and "****" everybody else, can we chance it? I'm doubtful, but I pray everyday that all those biblethumping and greedy so and sos will get something right in spite of their greed and selfishness!~~ 
Jan 8, 2013 3:08PM
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In the last 3 years I have not recieved any pay raises. This last year I recieved a 2% increase which now goes to social security. Do you think I will get that 2% back when I collect MY social security after 30 + yeras of paying into it. Dont think so!!! Its time the American people demand that ouir government pay back what was stolen from our SS fund. This was the peoples money, not the governments to use at will. Dont tell me I have to wait till im 69 or 70 to get what is rightfully mine. Let me draw out what I put into it, plus interest!!!!

Jan 8, 2013 3:08PM
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It seems like everyone, in every article and/or post, ignores the obvious fatal flaw in their arguments. Employers do not want old people working for them and many old people are unable, due to health (physical or mental) reasons to continue to work an additional 10 to 20 years. Everyone talks as if it is an option to all workers to stay in the workforce until the age of 70-75-80, etc. I lost my job of 17 years to a RIF when a management company (not Bain, but one like it) took over and got rid of the people who had the most seniority (highest salaries, most accrued leave, most education, and had the most invested in retirement funds. Incidentally, we lost most of our "retirement". No severance either... I am over 60, healthy, have a Bachelor's degree, 40 years of experience and have been looking for another position for 2 years. A much younger person with much less experience and knowledge has been hired for every job where I was interviewed. Employers want youth, not experience.    
Jan 8, 2013 3:07PM
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gee what the heck do they expect???? with so many people out of work and not paying into social security of course they are going to have troubles. same thing goes for taxes in federal and state taxes. the real solution is to stop the off shoring of american jobs and put american people back to work and then most of the problems would be taken care of when you have millions of people paying taxes and social security instead to the corporate ceo's and board of directors making millions while everyone else suffers. this is a no brainer and you don't need a degree to figure this one out....
Jan 8, 2013 3:07PM
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Just reading a few comments there are some good ideas out there.Hey lets pull our military out from every foreign country and bring them back to the good old USA. Then we could use those troops to help enforce our borders and stop illegal immigrants from coming in and costing our healthcare system and welfare system millions of dollars a year.
Jan 8, 2013 3:07PM
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I have worked since I was 13.  For anyone to suggest that I should work to 69 or 70 is an idiot.  I have a 401K and when my time comes SS, I hope.  I worked for this and should receive it.  Let those who didn't work for it be cut from SS, not the ones that did pay for it.

 

With the amount of money I have paid into SS over the years, if it was saved properly, I should be a millionare.  The government has squandered it.  Since the politicians need more money they should plunder their own pension plans to pay for the great embezzlement of SS.  i don't want to pay more, work more, or receive less than what I am due...  Not one dime less.

 

 

Jan 8, 2013 3:07PM
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As a former Governor of Colorado once said in a response to a question as to why Social Security will eventually go broke, "It's because people are not dying when they are supposed to."
Jan 8, 2013 3:06PM
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I think it's time to cash the whole damn thing out and let people fend for themselves.
Jan 8, 2013 3:05PM
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Instead of messing with social security that people have worked an paid into all there lives' an deserve this entitlement which they have more than earned, they should be looking at the welfare system who so easily hand's out money to who ever say's they are poor , most who have been in the system for life. they should take the social security program an give the welfare program to  the elderly at least they have earned it . i know my 80 year old father could not work to earn the extra money needed for food or meds. they need to revamp the whole welfare system an get rid of all the social workers who allow this to happen. The system is the worst i have ever seen. And they should have random drug testing , must show legal paper's, an limit only one child per person. Maybe then they would think twice before having another one.Give all the elderly free medical an food. Make the welfare people pay for theire own food an medical. I am not saying there are not people out ther who truly need it. If they have worked then they are entitled to get help. Social security is mime i paid for it.They did not pay anything  for what they get. Sorry if i offend anyone . But right is right an wrong is wrong.
Jan 8, 2013 3:04PM
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Bitch, bitch, whine, whine. Propaganda gets idiots upset!  Remove the cap...no problems anymore.
Jan 8, 2013 3:04PM
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Calculate how much money they would add to social security if the remove the $113,000 cap to tax employees.
Jan 8, 2013 3:04PM
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That's the secret to Obummers DeathCare - he isn't going to make it possible to get treatment if you are over 70 and sick - so you die and your SS dollars are available to someone else.   Socialism, nazi-ism at its finest!
Jan 8, 2013 3:04PM
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What an outrage! let me talk to the President!!!!!.
Jan 8, 2013 3:03PM
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Entitlements? That is the issue now days too many people feel entitled to everything. How many times have we read about kids killing their parents for money or because they told them NO. Politicians quit handing out taxpayers money to other countries. Start making people get off welfare and get jobs. I am entitled to SS because I paid into it. I am not entitled to a free ride with food stamps or welfare. I am suppose to work hard for the things I need or want. Welfare and food stamps are designed to help people for short periods of time. If you are on welfare there is no reason you can not get off welfare. Low income grants child care subsidies etc would give you child care and your higher education paid to get off welfare.(by the way because I and my parents chose to work for all we got I had to pay for my schooling!!!!)
Jan 8, 2013 3:02PM
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get rid of obamacare and put the money back the SOB stole, simple. just do it, he took it from the American people, put it back POS. sick of this crap stealing our money to fund his crap affordable healthcare, right look what it costs now compared before he made it affordable. idiot's, damn country going to hell being run by idiots on the lib side.

 

Jan 8, 2013 3:02PM
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Gooberment says we have minimal inflation. My ss check just went up $19 a month. My health insurance just went up $29 a month. Everybody who works got a cut in their paycheck last Friday except congress and Joe Biden. President Homeslice must have been feeling guilty on his $20 million taxpayer vacation. LOL
Jan 8, 2013 3:02PM
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How about they stop letting people collect from ss who never contributed to it. A friend of mine who works in social services in MA said that when MA changed the rules on collecting welfare benefits a few years back many of her clients found a way to collect disability benefits from SS. Their disability was they had substance abuse issues. Most never worked and yet they can still collect. If the government will give you free money there just isn't much incentive to get off your but and work. Meanwhile the taxes will go up for honest working people. That makes me very angry.
Jan 8, 2013 3:02PM
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I understand there are concerns about the longevity of social security money. Besides the presumed short falls of this Federal Govt program, which as some have already stated, the Govt already borrowed funds from that account, we should seriously receive compensation from foreign governments who seek our military intervention. Our military should have been and still should be compensated for action in Iraq, Kuwait, etc etc. And we are talking about our Federal Govt being compensated with GOLD,SILVER and OIL.  Why is the United States paying completely  for all this deployment cost? With that added revenue to the Federal bank account, we would have a lower defecit. and a new source of revenue. Wow what a concept!

 

 

Jan 8, 2013 3:00PM
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If they would work on the unemployment problem, instead of all the partisan bickering , then with more people working, means more people paying into SS so the pot gets bigger.  Try to create more jobs and more people pay into it.  With high unemployment it is draining the funds.  What is wrong with the people we have elected.  Maybe someone should mess with their pay, then it would be fixed real fast.
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