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Academics warn that agency officials are using outdated calculations and have severely overestimated the money available for retirees.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And that outdated mode of forecasting, the professors note, has failed to take into account crucial factors about longevity -- especially the fact that Americans are living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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996Comments
Jan 8, 2013 5:26PM
Jan 8, 2013 5:25PM
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I have some problems with this...first if the government wants to reduce social security benefits then reduce the social security taken from our pay checks. We pay into social security all our lives and then the government spends it before we can get it.  Second the government wants to keep raising the age for retirement hoping americans will die before they get social security.  Third no company wants to hire anyone over 60 so i guess americans will be homeless from 60 to 70 if government raises SS retirement to 70 years of age.  Really check, government want to deduct social security from americans paycheck and find a way not to give it to us when and if we retire.  GOVERNMENT SUCKS!!!!!
Jan 8, 2013 5:25PM
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Either end S.S. now or cut wages on Senators/House Rep. and President/Vice President. You can  the money if there wasn't so much friggin waste and greed.
Jan 8, 2013 5:25PM
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There isn't any SS fund or bank account with all our money waiting for us!

Clinton took all the independent funds and spent them to balance his budget and have a surplus to bragg about in the 90's.

I'll never get the money I earned and was taken from me when I reach the retirement, but hey Obama got a Nobel peace prize while having Wars and killing people and Kim K is knocked up now those are important issues not our SS empty  funds and Obamas 4 year spending spree!

Jan 8, 2013 5:25PM
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Gee, big surprise.  Once again, for those who haven't paid attention, THE GOVERNMENT CAN'T MANAGE ANYTHING PROPERLY.  OUR REPRESENTATIVES DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU.
Now, are there any questions?  
Of course not.
Now run out to the polls like good little idiots and vote for the same people as always based on ideology and raw emotion.
Jan 8, 2013 5:23PM
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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.

 

Bruce Kennedy contradicts himself with the above paragraph!!!

Jan 8, 2013 5:21PM
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First of all, I know too many people who are collecting Social security disability and not because they can't work, but because they found a doctor who helps them get it. And then there are those who truly need it and can't get it.   
   The whole system is broken but they don't want to fix it.

I myself know that I will never be able to retire.  I don't know how seniors manage with the increase of just the basics, never mind health care and prescriptions.
Jan 8, 2013 5:19PM
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How would by you like to work,pay into the system,have all your quarters,and because you spent time working for a state agency your monies that are supposed to be able to collect are reduced a  one third.Were does the balance go that I was intitaled to go.Get rid of the WEP law. I am sure some low live that has not worked enough to collect is enjoying my monies. System needs overhaul.
Jan 8, 2013 5:16PM
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attach a lien on Congressional retirements/pension. Why should Congress be rewarded for continual failure?
Jan 8, 2013 5:13PM
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yeah, wow...

still waiting on the zombie apokolypse

Jan 8, 2013 5:13PM
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BUBBA CLINTON still tak es credit for balancing the budget.

He "took" funds from SS.

Jan 8, 2013 5:11PM
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The article contradicts itself; first it claims that people are living longer due to advances in medical science, fewer smokers etc. then goes on to say that retirement reduces life span. If life span is reduced then it only follows that S.S. will have less to pay out. Conclusion; everybody retire, die and save S.S.  (Sarcasm here). Raising the age limit for S.S. eligiblity won't work, employers don't want you around even at age 55 let alone 70. Raise the earnings cap, modify the 401k and make it mandantory for all workers to participate. If the 401k has a gain in any given year, siphon off half of that gain to put into a safe investment such as treasurys etc. then at retirement time reduce the S.S. benefit proportionate to overall 401k results over the 40 to 45 years of employment. If this is started when people are very young, (Early 20's). Also, freeze the S.S. fund and pass a law that no branch of government can touch it for any other purpose than for those who contributed to it.
Jan 8, 2013 5:11PM
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Oh, so this is a secret?  Perhaps MSN should have listened to Paul Ryan and reported on what he was trying to tell the American people, as well as his ideas on solving the SS fiscal cliff instead of being mesmerized and humored by the childlike impish foolery of the court jester Biden in the VP debate.  Pravda/MSN is as foolish as Biden..
Jan 8, 2013 5:10PM
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All congress and government personnel need to pay into social security as do all others that are working. Stop giving it out to people coming in from other countries that have not worked or paid into the fund.  This is not an entitlement, this is monies that those of us that are of the age of retirement have paid into all or lives. So government parties get off your butts and pay into and stop giving yourselves raises that you are not entitled to just for showing up to do your job.  If you can't do it, then we will elect someone who can or maybe we should just fire you all and start from scratch with people that know and care how the lower and middle income families live.  Cause they have propbably been there.  All government parties should be limited to no more than 2 terms in office and not be paid what they were making for the rest of their lives.  Go back to making a living like the rest of the people in the United States of America.
Jan 8, 2013 5:09PM
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we need to raise the cap and put all goverment workers state county and federal on the same ss and medical we all have. plus why can goverment workers retire after 20 to 25 or after serving one term this is rediculas and they think the rest of us need to work till 67-70. they need to pay all the money back they stole from ss. and no one should be getting a check that did not pay into the system like at least 20-25 years. and just because you draw a check shouldn't entitle you to get a check for your kids or spouse.
Jan 8, 2013 5:08PM
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Feeding people on....Drug test them all,, 65% failure..Stop giving it to lazy trash who have not worked a day in their  drug infested lives, people on
SSD who have not paid a dime into the system. Lazy pigs who sit smoking pot and doing heroin get more SSD and welfare that people who are disabled. Proof in my case of working for 45 years, then got hurt on the job, well instead of sucking off the system, I tried to go back to work, well I screwed myself there, Just because I went to prison for 3 years before filling a SSD claim. Well I am in the streets until 65 and then I may get $400 a month to buy papers that I can sleep under and at 70 I can get $800 a month.. That's with 260 years of heritage paying taxes, well when taxes started being taken and I have a family that has now died of every kind of cancer, rotting bones and such since we lived in Utah's great chemical burning plants. Yet at 56 now, 7 shattered disc in my back, 85% disability rating and I get nothing, no medical, no nothing as this government has even spent my forefathers inheritance or investment into this country that was paid for by us. O-Abomination don't care, his forefathers paid nothing to build this country and as we see with this pigs case. He is comfortable spending millions a day and laughing at the American people who built these lands, who invested into these lands, who invested into SSD-SSI and now can't get crap back from these thefts..Americans get what they have sown, garbage, trash and criminal governments.. And then you let their criminal elections go on and we saw again the bought and paid for results..O-Abomination
Jan 8, 2013 5:07PM
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If we would quit giving billions of dollars away to all these countries that we try to buy their friendship with, perhaps we would have sufficient funds for retirement.  But try and tell that to a politician who gets 100k a year when they retire.  Plus, the jitters about earnings happens every quarter.  Does Wall Street think that people are that stupid to not know that the only reason W/S is promoting this so that they can lower the prices to get people to buy again. The earnings jitters is an old record that W/S keeps playing every quarter.  Same on story and same on Crap for Wall Street!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jan 8, 2013 5:07PM
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If the thieving congress would pay back the money thy stole form Social Security over the last several decades, Social Security would not be an issue. I would like to see all the congress men and women who voted to "borrow" from Social Security, arrested and charged with theft of public funds, crimes against the elderly and fraud against the American people.
Jan 8, 2013 5:07PM
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America was the greatest country in the world at one time . RIP America
Jan 8, 2013 5:06PM
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I believe the IOU's come due in 2013 or maybe 2014. They really do exist! I think congress is too busy worrying about the next election cycle to do what's right for the American public. If it doesn't get you votes  or will make you loose votes they avoid the issue no matter how important. If we were as irresponsible in our jobs as they are in theirs we would all be fired! Maybe we should get a recall petition together and throw them out. Of course we would still have to deal with the big money behind it all, but those power brokers might get the idea that we are fed up. And who knows maybe we would get someone in Washington who cares about the American people, not just their own  welfare. You do remember that in the last month they almost gave themselves a raise, but  at the last minute thought better of it???
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