Posted on 24 April 2012
By Mark Miller
It’s rare to see a federal government official publicly beg reporters to get a story right, but the commissioner of the Social Security Administration seemed ready to get down on his hands and knees at a Monday press briefing. Michael Astrue was cautioning journalists not to scare the public about the meaning of the word “exhaustion.”
The event was to deliver the annual report, widely viewed as the most important non-partisan status report, by the trustees of Social Security on the program’s financial health.
This year’s report shows some acceleration of the drawdown of Social Security’s vast trust fund reserves. Absent Congressional action, the trust funds of the retirement and disability programs are expected to be exhausted in 2033 as baby boomer retirements accelerate – three years sooner than projected a year ago. But Astrue went out of his way to emphasize that the program is far from broke.
Indeed. Social Security took in $69 billion more than it spent last year, according to the report, when you include tax receipts and interest on bonds held in the Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF). The SSTF had reserves of $2.7 trillion last year.
Yet the press plowed right ahead with stories warning that the Social Security retirement program is running out of money.
We need to get this right, because Social Security is the primary source of retirement security for most Americans – and it will be even more important in the future as we continue to dig our way out of the rubble of the Great Recession.
So, what’s really going on with Social Security? Learn more in my column this week at Reuters Money.