Lots of other experts disagree with Mr. Walker, including Nobel Prize winning economists who know a thing or two about the program. He was never, by the way, responsible for the administration of any of the programs you mention, including Social Security, which is administered by a Social Security commissioner. And the Social Security trustees, who know the program as intimately as anyone, do very definitely say that the trust fund is real, as does the law. The trust fund does lend money to the government, as required by law, by purchasing US Treasury Bonds, which go into to the trust fund, where they accumulate real interest. And Mr. Walker himself has acknowledged that those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. Unless Congress and the President decide to change the law, the assets in the trust fund are as real as it gets and will be spent for the purposes that the law requires - namely paying pensions to seniors.
It is simply untrue that the assets are gone. By law, the trust fund holds all the assets of the program. If they were gone, as you claim, those checks retirees receive each month would be worthless. They are not because the program's assets are very much real, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. That seventy trillion dollar figure is itself based on bogus accounting. It's a big, scary number, but it makes no more sense to say that we have $70 in future unfunded liabilities in the combined programs you describe than to say that the Pentagon has tens of trillions of dollars in future unfunded liabilities, because we have not raised the money that we are going to spend on the Pentagon in future years.
Furthermore, most of that $70 trillion figure you cite is attributable to projected future rises in health care costs. There is a need to get health care costs under control. But much of the problem there is our inefficient, market-driven health care system, which costs our government insurance programs lots of money to cover. In other words, it's not government spending per se, that is the problem. It's the expense of private sector health care.
There is nothing magical about our so-called entitlements. We as a society make decisions about what we prioritize. If we choose to spend less money on retirement security in the future, we can do that. But there is no structural reason why the programs you mention are inherently unsustainable. If maintaining enormous Pentagon budgets and keeping taxes on the wealthy at levels that are low by historical standards is a priority, we'll pay for that by spending less on health care and pensions.
Fix the Debt and people like them want to make it sound like we have no choice but to cut things that they themselves have no stake in. But we do.
Indy Week • 302 E. Pettigrew St., Suite 300, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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