In our opinion: The long-term outlook for Social Security isn't good, so begin solving problem now


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  • Star Bright Salt Lake City, Ut
    July 30, 2014 9:13 a.m.

    Does anyone remember harry reid saying there was no problem, it was secure? Yep, and we are supposed to believe it.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    July 30, 2014 7:49 a.m.

    Just a few points.

    SS: we had to pay it but the administration has to pay us back.

    Obviously the payback must represent what the money was worth when confiscated, not
    the actual amounts paid in, b'c of the inflation resulting from government deficit spending.
    What was a dollar worth in the 1930's? 1940's? 1950's? etc.

    The employers' "contributions" should be included in any such calculation.

    SS: If you don't like it work to have it repealed, but don't seek to reduce the value
    of the money paid in or to outright steal it from those who had no choice but
    to pay. Let it be used for the stated purpose, and adjust for inflation.

  • U-tar Woodland Hills, UT
    July 29, 2014 8:28 p.m.

    Gary O, I never said I hate the Government, I just don't like the direction current leaders are taking our Country. That goes for both sides. I love America!

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    July 29, 2014 1:42 p.m.

    @Jeff Harris:
    "Contrary to what Republican politicians hope we'll believe, most of us know that Social Security is an insurance that we working Americans pay for during our working lives, not an "entitlement" whatever that is. Republican attacks on it are the biggest threats Social Security faces."

    Well I disagree. But don't take my word for it. Call up the Social Security administration, give them your social security number and ask them how much money is in your personal SS account. You may recall that 15 years ago Bush the son wanted to have individual social security accounts so that you really would have a social security insurance account when you called the SS administration.

    The Democrats ridiculed the idea.

    What happened with your money is that wealthy seniors in the last 30 years have been collecting 50 to 100 times more out of social security that they put into it. Instead of your money going into your account it went into their back accounts. Congress knew what was happening but it was politically unpalatable to go against well to-do seniors.

    So your money is gone.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    July 29, 2014 7:37 a.m.

    Marxist, I usually agree with most of your positions but I have to say that while technically correct your assessment of China and Russia is truly looking at the situation with one eye closed. In fact most would argue that the downfall of the Soviet Union was due to the fact that they built an unsustainable industrial state precisely because it went from feudalism to industrialism in 20 years. Even Marx didn't think that was a good idea.

    If it hadn't been for the war weariness of the Russian people the Bolsheviks may not have prevailed and the democratic parliamentarians may have carried the day from the February revolution and Russia would have had a very different future. Possibly a future where Russia today would look much more like the rest of Europe. That would have been a successful revolution.

    July 28, 2014 7:30 p.m.

    Stop calling Social Security an entitlement. It's a retirement plan for the American worker. The funds in Social Security were put there by the American worker.

    Less part time jobs and a better economy will do wonders. The funds coming in have always exceeded those going out until the last three years.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    July 28, 2014 6:49 p.m.

    We have $2 trillion to waste on Iraq and yet we don't have enough for social security?

    Are we living in the Twilight Zone here?

    Think Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, or Eisenhower would agree to that?

    It's almost like the right wants Americans to suffer.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    July 28, 2014 6:11 p.m.

    JoeBlow -

    "But, the money was "SPENT" and an IOU was put in its place."

    Well, yes and no.

    Our government shuffles money around as needed . . . routinely taking money from one government agency, often Social Security, and giving it to others governmental agencies.

    It's called intragovernmental borrowing and intragovernemental debt.

    But that money is routinely paid back to Social Security with interest as needed. In that sense, it's an investment, and it actually works pretty well.

    And isn't it reassuring that a significant portion of the 17 trillion dollars our nation's government owes . . . is owed to our nation's government?

    5 trillion of that 17 trillion is money the government owes to itself.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    July 28, 2014 5:42 p.m.

    Oh boy! Privatizing SS seems like yet another "great" idea along the lines of deregulating Wall Street, arming radical Iranians, and giving tax cuts to rich people while at the same time invading Iraq!

    Some ideas are so pathetic that they don't even deserve to be talked about.

    Folks, let's listen to some common sense here. SS didn't come out of a vacuum. Thousands of elderly Americans suffered heavy losses. In fact, thousands committed suicide because they didn't have the funds nor did they have family members nearby.

    Another inconvenient truth? SS outperforms conventional retirement funds. Why? Most Americans don't have the time nor wisdom necessary to adequately invest. The inconvenient truth is that without SS most Americans would be in the poor house.

    Hence, why the safety bet SS is necessary. If Wall Street steals your money and you lose your savings, at least you have SS to keep you from living in a Hooverville.

    Folks, we can either repeat history or learn from it. Let's learn from history and avoid the pitfalls we've fallen into in the past.

    Let's use some common sense here and keep SS.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    July 28, 2014 4:56 p.m.

    Hey Utar -

    "The long Term Outlook on anything our Government is doing isn't good"

    . . . According to ideology-dominated "Conservatives."

    When the Founders created this government you hate so much, they did so with the understanding that good governance is absolutely necessary for American success.

    They were right.

    The Constitution and the Federal Government are here to stay . . . even if your ideology forbids it.

    Get used to it.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 28, 2014 4:51 p.m.

    RE: U-tar "The long Term Outlook on anything our Government is doing isn't good. They are inept socialist's, doomed to repeat the failures of history, too bad they have to drag us with them."

    It's too bad Eastern history (as in Russia, India, and China) is not taught in our schools. The Communist Revolution in China was a success! They drove out the foreign invaders and took a feudal society into the 20th century in the space of 15 years! Yes, China has adopted some capitalist forms, but China's success is based on the Communist and Cultural Revolutions.

    Communist Russia accomplished much the same, going from feudalism to a modern industrial state in 20 years, able to soak up at least half of Hitler!

    Yes socialism is a mixed bag, but so is everything else including our own imperialist brand of capitalism.

  • U-tar Woodland Hills, UT
    July 28, 2014 3:42 p.m.

    The long Term Outlook on anything our Government is doing isn't good. They are inept socialist's, doomed to repeat the failures of history, too bad they have to drag us with them.

  • ordinaryfolks seattle, WA
    July 28, 2014 3:31 p.m.

    dave 4197
    good ideas!
    but you are going to get trashed by our conservative friends.

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    July 28, 2014 3:26 p.m.

    "“unsustainable” federal deficits through the next quarter-century" . . . Unless we generate enough revenue to pay for expenditures.

    So . . . Let's generate enough revenue to pay for expenditures.


    Tax the highest earners more . . . Like we did back in the days when we could spend prodigiously on national security, infrastructure, science, and needed social programs and STILL balance the budget because we had enough REVENUE.

    Reagonomics was supposed to create jobs.

    It obviously does not . . . So lets simply do away with it, and get the nation back on a track toward success.

    At it is, we are babying the rich and letting everyone else suffer.

    And that's just dumb.

    We know what works, so let's do what works.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 28, 2014 3:24 p.m.

    If Social Security in its function dies, America will be dead. We will have come full circle and ended up back where we started prior to the revolutionary war that gave birth to the American experiment. Whatever they call the government it will be a virtual copy of the government of old England.

    Fortunately for our outlook, the predictions and prophesies of the prophets of doom have a solid record of failure.

    Not that we won't have troubles, it may take a rebirth of America to perpetuate the notion of government by the people and if that happens the New America will be even more than before.

  • dave4197 Redding, CA
    July 28, 2014 2:26 p.m.

    There are some good ideas above mixed in with some nut cases above.
    At 69, retired, working intermittently, and going undeniably downhill, I say don't raise the retirement age 'cause that won't work for most people who actually work with tools vs sit in a chair. But I do have 2 ideas to fix social security:
    1. Cap the payments. This is not a general cut but a cap on the top recipients. Cap the payments so in today's dollars this pension does not increase a person's annual income above say $70k. Those who rely on ssa for daily living will still get their pensions; those who have other income cannot use their ssa to pile on above $70k.
    2. Remove the cap on contributions. FICA tax is paid on the first $110k or so, it's inflation adjusted, now that means the high earners get a tax reduction or 7% for earnings above that amount, and it's past time to stop that. Remove this cap.
    If you don't like this solution please contribute yours that actually works, I can still read. . .

  • Back Talk Federal Way, WA
    July 28, 2014 2:19 p.m.

    SS is like any other publicly funded retirement account except that the "trust fund" was not allowed to invest the surplus. Instead, the gov borroweed the money with IOU's. I dont even know if an interest rate was included in that IOU or not.

    What the government should do is stop taking this money for general fund usage. They could invest any surplus in the total market index (low expenses, and no Financial advisors trying to rip people off by selling their financial advice). Let SS be only what it is, a retirement fund. Then the goverment would have to support the general fund expenses by the current taxes. Peoplw would learn pretty quickly how far their tax dollars go.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    July 28, 2014 1:36 p.m.

    I see arguments that Social Security is "insurance" that people have paid into all their lives.

    Well then, let's treat it like insurance. Set benefits according to what they would be if Social Security really were an insurance program -- if your benefits equivalent to what you'd get from an annuity bought with the amount of payroll tax you paid, compounded with a conservative rate of interest.

    Most people would get much lower payments under that scenario than they get currently. Because Social Security is not insurance. For most people, a significant part of their benefit consists of transfers from other taxpayers. If you got only what you put in, plus interest, Social Security would be solvent.

  • techpubs Sioux City, IA
    July 28, 2014 1:20 p.m.

    The original ides of OASI commonly referred to as Social Security had basic concepts. First it was not expected that more than 1/2 of those who would need it would live to be 65. Secondly, there was a cap on wages because it was believed that 90% above the cap would have no need of it if they reached 65. And yes in that respect it was a redistribution of wealth from the truly rich to the truly poor. Thirdly, it was only supposed to supply you with sufficient income to keep you out of the county poorhouse basically just above poverty level or currently approx. $900/mo for you $450/mo for your spouse.

    However, after it was passed and the money began to accumulate because there were few recipients changes were made. Higher payouts and inclusion of everyone who paid in even if they didn't need it. To make it worse those above the cap insisted that they receive the max. payout since they paid in the max. And of course we are living longer than then due to modern medical procedures.

    Practical solutions would be to remove the cap and reduce the max. payout to 2.5X the poverty rate.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 28, 2014 12:42 p.m.

    RE: JoeBlow "and an IOU was put in its place."

    That IOU is an interest bearing U.S. government security. The entire world is invested in these instruments.

    BTW, the Tea Party plan to have the U.S. default on its debt come October has as one of its goals the bankrupting of the social security trust fund. Of course it would also trash capitalism globally. Just in case we socialists will run candidates locally in 2016.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 28, 2014 12:33 p.m.

    "So like almost all other funds the payroll receipts are invested - in U.S. government debt"

    Gotta disagree here in principle.

    Had the money been "invested" that is one thing. But, the money was "SPENT" and an IOU was put in its place. That money is gone and must be collected from those yet to retire.

    The money was spent. Not invested.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 28, 2014 11:52 a.m.

    RE: Procuradorfiscal "There is no social security trust fund. Any more than there exists a Social Security fairy."

    First, it is not possible to put rubber bands around payroll tax receipts and toss them into a vault waiting for people to retire. That would create a huge idle pool of cash - not good for the economy. So like almost all other funds the payroll receipts are invested - in U.S. government debt - the safest investment in the world. Says who? Says the entire world. This is not the socialist solution I would like, but it will have to to do for now.

  • Aurelius maximus Berryville, VA
    July 28, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    How about letting me pay to opt out of it. I will gladly just give the government 1/5th of whatever I am paying in social security for free and not expect anything in return when I need to retire.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    July 28, 2014 11:39 a.m.

    @Shane333 - Your suggestion of raising the retirement age to 79 has mathematical merit, but it doesn't capture reality. Yes, we're living far past 65 now, but our ability to work declines rapidly in our later years. Just because some of us are living into our 70's and 80's doesn't change the fact that we're wearing out in our 60's, through injury, disease, and mental deterioration.

    We're struggling in a world that is leaving us behind. Most workers in their 60's have lost their jobs through forced retirement or layoffs, and can't find another job. They deserve the Social Security insurance that they paid into all their lives.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    July 28, 2014 11:28 a.m.

    One of the defining characteristics of a Ponzi scheme is that it is started by someone who can capture the accumulated funds before the whole thing goes bust. Social Security was initiated by Congress, and Congress has used those funds for many decades to buy votes.

    Yep, it sure fits the definition of a Ponzi scheme. If so, then who are the scam artists and who are the suckers?

  • Shane333 Cedar Hills, UT
    July 28, 2014 10:49 a.m.


    So long as you are accepting the reality of the situation then I am fine with discussing compromise. I suggest restoring SS to it's more original form and intent. Social Security was originally set to 65, which was actually higher than the median life expectancy at the time. Meaning that less than half of the population was ever intended to receive SS payments. Today this would mean changing the age of receiving Social Security to 79 or a little higher.

    That would significantly increase the financial stability of Social Security. It would also facilitate reducing SS tax rates to a more original form. In the mid 50's, SS taxes were only 2% for employees and 2% for employers. It would be nice to keep more of our own money.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    July 28, 2014 10:35 a.m.

    The problem I have with SS is two fold:
    #1: It is forced upon us. You have no choice! You can not opt out or alter it in anyway.
    #2: No accountability from the government. They took OUR money from the "trust" fund, spent it on who knows what and we accept that?
    If your banker did that with your money, they would be arrested and sent to prison! Its called grand larceny!

  • CottageCheese SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 28, 2014 10:34 a.m.

    I'm a young guy - 28 years old. I would much rather be legislatively required to personally invest the SS "tax" that hits my pay check than kiss it goodbye without any hope of seeing a dime back when i retire in 35-40 years.

    When the government does for someone what they can do for themselves, everyone loses except the government.

    They have used this "tool" to buy votes. R's and D's. No other explanation for it.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    July 28, 2014 10:30 a.m.

    Obama has proposed cutting SS benefits by tying them to CPI, thus maintaining solvency forever. In return he wants certain loopholes for rich taxpayers closed.

    This is a fair and responsible compromise, but the House Republicans won't even talk. Sheer obstructionism.

  • Kings Court Alpine, UT
    July 28, 2014 10:22 a.m.

    Social Security would've been just fine if the politicians from both parties hadn't raided and plundered the trust fund from the 1960's to the 1980's.

  • ordinaryfolks seattle, WA
    July 28, 2014 9:40 a.m.

    So what if you think Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.
    So what if it a "redistribution" of wealth.
    Well, you get the point. So what.

    It is a program that US citizens rely on for a modicum of security in their old age. We may argue endlessly about when "old age" begins and what a modicum of security means in actual dollars. However, we are not going to abolish the system.

    The best advice to all sides of this political debate is to find common ground, compromise and give the American people comfort knowing this safety net will stay in place. Sadly, even power Senators like Mr Hatch can not seem to find this common ground and actually do something positive for the majority of Americans. I don't blame him, but just where does the buck stop in the Congress and the Senate? Can they every draft any kind of compromise legislation, or are they going to continue to bicker like fishwives (apologies to the spouses of fish mongers, its a vivd metaphor if misogynistic).

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    July 28, 2014 9:17 a.m.

    The real problem Medicare and Medicaid. The high cost of health care, and the lack of savings to prepare for paying health costs in retirement is both killing the competitiveness of American businesses, and leaving us unprepared to pay for medical costs in old age. The problems? 1) A lack of open markets in health care (consumers don't feel the full impact of their health choices so they spend less time shopping for good medicine than they do for a $600 television) 2) with limited information available to consumers 3) Poor dietary and health/fitness choices 4) Under-educated workers who do not contribute sufficient value to cover their own health costs.

    Until we start to address the real underlying issues, the problems will continue to grow.

  • Shane333 Cedar Hills, UT
    July 28, 2014 9:07 a.m.

    Ida Mae Fuller, the first SS recipient, paid less than $25 in SS taxes. She then received almost $23,000 in SS welfare payments.

    Thus Social Security has been a Ponzi scheme from the very beginning. Eventually all Ponzi schemes collapse as the number of those who reach the receiving end grows until it can no longer be supported.

    Second, Social Security is a tax, not an investment. The money taken from you today isn't being stored in any account waiting to you to cash it out on a later date. Money taken from you is immediately being given to one of the SS welfare recipients (remember that this is a Ponzi scheme and has been since the first recipient). Those notices from the government telling you about an account with your name on it? Those are fiat accounts, meaning they only exist in an arbitrary sense and not a literal one.

    Before solutions can be found, we must first face the reality of the situation.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 28, 2014 9:02 a.m.

    "Best time to begin solving this problem? Back when President Bush suggested it,"

    Are you talking about just before the stock market crashed big time?

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    July 28, 2014 8:24 a.m.

    Re: "The social security trust fund is solvent until 2030."

    No, it's not. There is no social security trust fund. Any more than there exists a Social Security fairy.

    Here's how the welfare-system Ponzi scam works -- current benefits are paid out of current receipts. Current excesses are applied to other general-budget items, with an understanding they'll be paid back out of future receipts. Resulting, of course, in unsustainable systemic debt.

    To say that Social Security is solvent until 2030 must be translated from liberal newspeak as: "CBO hopes -- that's all they can do, there's no real way to predict -- that current receipts, plus redemption of government debt instruments will meet current expenditures until 2030."

    But a "lockbox," into which current excesses are placed, ready to be used when needed in the future? Nothing but disingenuous accounting fantasy -- Social Security fairytale.

    Best time to begin solving this problem? Back when President Bush suggested it, and liberals fought it off. Second best? Now, but liberals will never let the issue be solved.

    They'll continue to press the Social Security fairy approach until it all collapses.


  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    July 28, 2014 8:12 a.m.

    "...Unsustainable might be an appropriate term for the seemingly lackluster interest from Capitol Hill lawmakers, outside of Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and a few others. The report, stated Hatch, is a stark reminder of the urgent need for entitlement reform...".

    It's good to read Hatch is aware of something.

    Hatch has been in the Senate since 1977.

    It's good to read Hatch sees anything as being urgent.

    "...Actually, the feds financial picture right now isn't dire, given budget cuts and tax increases. The CBO projects a U.S. budget deficit of $492 billion this year, the lowest since 2008 and nearly a third of the record $1.4 trillion in 2009...".

    Actually, it's surprising to read this report in the DN.

    "...Americans are hesitant to see reductions in Social Security benefits. A recent Pew Research Center study shows 67 percent want no reductions at all in benefits,...".

    Those Americans who are hesitant to see reductions in Social Security represent the voting base of the Republican Party.

    Republican law makers will slash Social Security benefits for their voting base.


  • Cedarcreek320 Star Valley Ranch, WY
    July 28, 2014 7:55 a.m.

    If we stopped trying to be the police force for the world and started taking care of our selves, we could afford a lot of things.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 28, 2014 7:45 a.m.

    To Shaun McC: People in their 50's are already having a hard time finding a job. Employers do not want 70 year old employees Increasing the retirement age won't work for that reason, unless we very vigorously enforce anti-age discrimination laws. Also many people in physically difficult work environments simply cannot keep working that long.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 28, 2014 7:39 a.m.


    Had SS been invested, it would be a great program.

    But alas, our great and wise elected leaders, Both R and D alike, saw free money and used it in an effort to buy votes and keep taxes low.

    So, what we have is a decent program that was hijacked by politicians (even your beloved Republicans)

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 28, 2014 7:29 a.m.

    Lumping Social Security and Medicare together is highly obfuscatory. Social Security's problems are relatively minor. SS currently consumes 5% of GDP, that will rise to 6% by 2035 where it is projected to remain. A small tax increase coupled to a small benefit cut will take care of it.

    Medicare and Medicaid, on the other hand, is where all of the future deficits problems originate, But if we were to get our medical spending down to the level of Germany, or France, or Japan, or any other developed country, we would solve almost all of long term deficit problems.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    July 28, 2014 7:28 a.m.

    Anyone who thinks SS is a good deal does not understand math or compounded interest!
    M = P( 1 + i )n

    M is the final amount including the principal.
    P is the principal amount.
    i is the rate of interest per year.
    n is the number of years invested.

    Look at the FICA deduction on your next paycheck and include what your employer is forced to contribute and plug those yearly numbers into the above formula for say..40 years! Assign any modest interest rate, compounded for those 40 years! If we had been "allowed" to invest that money in any simple investment, nearly every American would retire as multi-millionaires. Congrats Americans, your government hosed you again!

  • ShaunMcC La Verkin, UT
    July 28, 2014 7:12 a.m.

    The only reasonable solution is one that no one is talking about. I have proposed that we gradually increase the age that people receive benefits from these programs, increasing it by 6 months per year until we get it to 72 years old. At 60 years old, that affects me as much as anyone, but it is the right thing to do. While it would be nice if the money we pay in could be privatized so it was available to us when we need it, that is not workable in the short term. This approach will decrease costs substantially in the long run and is more reflective of how long people live and can and should be productive compared to when Social Security and Medicare were created.

  • pragmatistferlife salt lake city, utah
    July 28, 2014 7:09 a.m.

    Social Security is one program that is absolutely vital to the health of the nation but also a program that one would expect would have to be "fixed" periodically with changing demographics and economic situations. It's impossible to see 50 years ahead so adjustments should be expected.

    Luckily Social Security has some very easy fixes we just need the will to do so.

  • Jeff Harris Edmonds, WA
    July 28, 2014 6:27 a.m.

    Contrary to what Republican politicians hope we'll believe, most of us know that Social Security is an insurance that we working Americans pay for during our working lives, not an "entitlement" whatever that is. Republican attacks on it are the biggest threats Social Security faces.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 28, 2014 5:36 a.m.

    SS is a fairly easy fix.

    1) delay benefits
    2) increase taxes to cover it.
    3) a combination of the 2 above makes the most sense

    Medicare/Medicaid are much tougher problems.

    Fixes include
    1) reduce benefits
    2) work to cut medical costs
    3) raise taxes to pay for it

    Of the 3 above, working to cut medical costs seems to make the most sense as cost are huge compared to the rest of the world.

    All we need to do is convince about 1/2 of the country that medical costs need to be controlled.

    The longer we wait, the tougher these problems become. And lately, all our congress HAS been doing is waiting and pushing the problem down the road.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    July 28, 2014 12:29 a.m.

    For social security the problem is the regressivity of the payroll tax. According to Senator Bernie Sanders we should apply the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000. Applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would only impact the wealthiest 1.3 percent of wage earners. In other words, 98.7 percent of wage earners in the United States would not see their taxes go up. The social security trust fund is solvent until 2030. Lifting the cap on taxable income would extend social security an additional 50 years.

    Social security has been a winner and has rescued many elderly from abject poverty. Before social security it was a race to see which would kill off the elderly first - ill health or lack of nutrition.

  • Mainly Me Werribee, 00
    July 28, 2014 12:14 a.m.

    In my opinion: Social Security is a Ponzi scam and will crash of its own weight.