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Time is Running Out for Social Security

Washington, DC – Today’s Social Security trustees’ report projects that the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund is on track to deplete its reserves in 2034, one year later than projected last year but still just over a decade away. Polls show that as many as a quarter of current working-age Americans don’t expect to receive Social Security benefits—a mistaken but understandable belief. The sooner policymakers act, the more policy options are available with adequate time to phase them in and allow the public to prepare.  

The following is a statement from BPC Economic Policy Director  Shai Akabas:

“Social Security’s financial shortfall has been well known for years, and now it’s staring us in the face just over a decade away. This year’s report shows yet again that we are well past the time for talking points and partisan entrenchment. 

“We need specific plans. We need leadership. And we need action. Pronouncements like ‘no tax increases,’ ‘no benefit cuts,’ and ‘no tax increases on anyone below a certain threshold’ need to be set aside. There’s no room for red lines. This is a societal challenge that requires broad contributions to a solution.

“Wage and job growth have exceeded expectations, which is bringing in more revenue to the trust funds, and sadly, COVID deaths among the elderly have modestly reduced program costs. Claims for disability insurance continue to come in below expectations, which partly explains the bright spot in this report for that trust fund, which is now expected to remain solvent throughout the 75-year projection window. But working in the opposite direction, Social Security benefits are tied to inflation and price growth has continued to accelerate.

“The good news is that more members of Congress are actively working to chart a bipartisan path forward on this complex problem than at any time in recent years. We at BPC stand ready to help, and our 2016 commission report serves as a template.

“Finally, it’s shameful that many of the leadership positions for the Social Security program have gone without permanent officials for so many years. The commissioner is currently acting, and that position has only been filled by a confirmed appointee for two of the past nine years. Similarly, the public trustee positions have been vacant for the past seven years, mainly due to partisan squabbling. 

“With Social Security in difficult financial straits, it’s critical that we have trusted public oversight of the program’s finances and operations.” 

Shai Akabas is available for comment.

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