Charles Krauthammer: Once again, Social Security's trust fund is broke

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  • KM Cedar Hills, UT
    March 21, 2011 11:21 p.m.

    grover and the rest of the socialist lovers

    I reject out of hand your assertion that socialism or communism is a better form of government than the one the founders intended for us. We have the most liberty in the world, bar none. Ours is the greatest system of governance in the world. Why do you insist on changing it to be just like everyone else?

    Europe will go down before we do, but, because of attitudes like yours, I'm sure we will follow.

  • wbm Woods Cross, UT
    March 21, 2011 10:56 p.m.

    @ Another Perspective

    You miss the point about the Social Security Trust Fund. It is a fiction. It does not matter if there is $100 dollars or $100 Trillion dollars in the trust fund. Benefits will never be paid with anything but current taxes or current borrowings. Social Security is a part of the federal government. No entity can borrow form or lend to itself.

    The promises that are important to this discussion, are the promises made by the government to its citizens. We have all been promised certain benefits. I would like to see those promises kept as best as possible. If you believe in the trust fund then you believe there is plenty of money and the problem is thirty years down the road. If you realize that it is an accounting fiction, than you know the real problems are just a few years away. Ignoring a problem will not make it go away.

    Unfortunately the people who made the promises are dead, the people expected to carry out those promises were not even alive when the promises were made. We need to find a balance between what is fair for both young and old.

  • Grover Salt Lake City, UT
    March 21, 2011 9:44 p.m.

    KM: The last time they elected a lawyer from Illinois with no experience, he worked out pretty well in the long run didn't he? I don't know whether this one will get a statue on the mall, but I am willing to give him another two years or six years before I evaluate his accomplishments.

    You don't need to win a Nobel prize to know that the 1 to 2 % the prior occupant was talking about wasn't 1 to 2 % of your contributions, but 1 to 2 % of the 7% we contribute from our pay (i.e. 14% to 28%). Since the Swedes were ranked among the happiest nation, socialism seems to be working out well for them AND there economy is balanced! Read it and weep.

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    March 21, 2011 7:44 p.m.

    wrz says "the well off pay taxes on benefits they receive. Not so the poor."

    I have news for him! I'm not well-off. (Unless a total after tax income of $1200 a month makes me so. If it does, I sure haven't noticed.)

    I pay taxes on my Social Security income.

    Someone has deceived this poor soul.

  • KM Cedar Hills, UT
    March 21, 2011 4:46 p.m.

    Hey we elected a president with who never had run anything. We elected a community organizer. What is that? Well, if you look and find the answer you will not like it.
    And nobel prizes are nothing more than a ploy to foreward the ideas of anti-capitalists throughout the world.

  • Grover Salt Lake City, UT
    March 21, 2011 3:56 p.m.

    I see these comments as real progress. Many of the comments show that their writers accept a member of the media with no special training as the authority on the subject of social security! Next thing you know they might just start believing Paul Krugman articles (he of the PhD and the Nobel). Whoops, those credentials make Krugman close to a "scientist" and we all know those folks can't be trusted. When it doubt...believe the pundit.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    March 21, 2011 1:32 p.m.

    Social Security is welfare. It should be paid only to the truly needy.

    Anyone whose non-Social Secuity income is more than that of the average wage earner who pays for Social Security, but who still takes those benefits -- is stealing from their kids and grandkids.

    And should be ashamed!

  • LOL holladay, utah
    March 21, 2011 11:01 a.m.

    I am sorry for all those who bought the Cheney/Bush lies and either never put into the SS system or pulled their money out and put into the stock market like the neocons told them to do.
    Now they are broke and may have to work at a fast food restaurant to survive.

  • KM Cedar Hills, UT
    March 21, 2011 10:58 a.m.


    This is whats getting pretty old ... Your statement that the progressive Bush suggested we take all of our SS payments and put it in the stock market. I remmeber that it was more like 1-2% now thats a far cry from what you are fibbing about. I remember thinking that was a miniscule amount and that I wanted to control all of my retirement planning. Not the government.

    As for the repubs vs the dems ... keep on playing that game, its what has gotten us in the mess we are in. Bush started wars and spent money and now Obama continues wars, starts wars and spends more money.

  • EPJ Grantsville, UT
    March 21, 2011 7:11 a.m.

    Individuals who "cook the books" like this would be charged with fraud and running a Ponzi scheme. Right?

  • Another Perspective Bountiful, UT
    March 21, 2011 6:50 a.m.

    re wbm | 10:47 a.m. March 20, 2011

    To everyone who believes that the Social Security fund is anything more than an accounting trick, I offer the following question.

    What would happen if we passed a law that doubled the size of the trust fund? Congress could declare a 100% bonus interest payment on government bonds in the trust fund.


    What would happen if a giant meteor were to slam into Utah? Well I guess we would all either die or wish we had.

    Now lets get back to reality. SS bought government bonds to support itself for just such a time as this, i.e. the time when it would be paying out more than it is taking in. The government is obligated to pay back these bonds, no less that it is obligated to pay back the bonds that other people or entities hold.

    Can we say to the Chinese or Japanese, or British or individual American Citizens for the bonds they hold? Well I suppose we can, but this would mean we have defaulted on our debt. Defaulting on the bonds held by SS would be no less of a breach of trust.

  • Another Perspective Bountiful, UT
    March 21, 2011 6:41 a.m.

    "SS trust fund is broke"

    This is the big lie of our time.

    The trust fund has hundreds of billions in it. It has money flowing into it every day. It can pay out all that is required until the mid 2030's. After that of no tweaks are made in the amount of taxes collected to support it, SS benefits will have to drop by a few percent.

    I have read several articles that say if social security taxes would apply to all income not just the 1st $106,000 SS would be on a stable footing at the present level of benefits for the forseeble future.

    Now that you are armed with the true facts, if you desire to save social security, go vote for people who are committed to support it. If not then do without and pray when you retire, the stock market is in an upswing.

  • John C. C. Payson, UT
    March 21, 2011 6:31 a.m.

    Mr. Krauthammer neglected to call for a return to taxing capital gains. We have seen that capital gains do not trickle down like they used to. They accumulate at the top and stagnate there. Let everyone pay for the recovery and help return the SS to solvency.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    March 21, 2011 5:27 a.m.

    Republicans are not going to do away with SS and Meidcare. Put your reality caps on. They would have to stop taking SS and MC taxes from your paychecks. They are just preparing the conservative base for giving the revenue stream to wall street - watching them lose it and then not having anything.

    And they are not going to have a means test for SS and MC because republicans love thier benefits - they just don't want to pay anything for them.

  • wrz SLC, Utah
    March 20, 2011 10:43 p.m.

    @wbm: "Krauthammer's suggestion of lowering benefits for the most well off retirees is the most logical first step."

    The well-off don't get much more than the poor in SS benefits. The calculation of benefits is skewed to the poor. Furthermore, the well off pay taxes on the benefits they receive. Not so with the poor.

  • wbm Woods Cross, UT
    March 20, 2011 10:19 p.m.

    I am amazed at how people can remain so blissfully ignorant. The Social Security Trust Fund is a fiction. The fund is full of IOU's from the government to the government. If I write myself an IOU for a billion dollars, does that make me a Billionaire?

    If we ever hope to solve our problems we must look at them realistically and not with wishful thinking. The fact is current Social Security payments will only ever be paid with current tax collections or current borrowing. All sides of the debate agree on this.

    To fix the problems of Social Security we need to find a way to make sure future benefits paid out do not exceed future revenue. That can be accomplished by raising taxes or lowering benefits. There is no magic solution. Krouthamer's suggestion of lowering benefits for the most well off retires is the most logical first step.

  • wrz SLC, Utah
    March 20, 2011 10:12 p.m.


    "If SS is broke then the military is REALLY broke. So is are farm subsidies and the CIA, FAA and every other function of the government."

    Not you too!!

    The federal government IS broke. It has no money. It has to borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Regardless of what it's spent on.

    If you were to add up all cash the government might have laying around and all the debt it has incurred you would find that it is short by a total of $14 trillion. Some refer this to the (wait for it)... National Debt.

    "At least SS and Medicare were funded from payroll taxes for the purpose of SS and MC."

    Why do you single out those two funds? There are dozens of "funds" that are funded by taxes... some by payroll taxes such as federal employee retirement. And others by other taxing methods such as the federal tax on the gas you put into your car's gas tank... for building roads, highways, and freeways.

  • wrz SLC, Utah
    March 20, 2011 9:41 p.m.

    @Gus Talwynd:

    "The government needs to pay back what they owe to the Social Security Trust Fund and keep their fingers out of our retirement funds."

    Good heavens, Gus. You're as ill-informed as Chuck. Where is the government going to get money to pay the SS Trust Fund back? Did you not get the memo? The government is broke. No money to pay anything back. Besides, any and all government "funds" are simply bookkeeping entries indicating where the funding (taxes) comes from and where it goes, with a bit of an effort to balance income to outgo. All tax receipts regardless of source goes into the treasury.

    And, by the way, supposing the government paid the SS Trust Fund back what it "borrowed," as you suggest. What would you have the fund manager do with the money, put it in a cash drawer at the SS Administration office? Would that be in one dollar bills or perhaps 100's? Or maybe the manager should invest it in the stock or bond market to earn a return. Well, the manager has decided something like that. Only the bonds are "special," paying a nominal return rate.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    March 20, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    If SS is broke then the military is REALLY broke. So is are farm subsidies and the CIA, FAA and every other funcion of the government.

    At least SS and Medicare were funded from payroll taxes for the purpose of SS and MC.

    SS and MC are the ONLY government function that aren't broke. They've been robbed of the savings they should have had but the funding is still specifically for the purpose of SS and MC.

    Fix your broken military.

  • wrz SLC, Utah
    March 20, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    Charles, Charles, Charles. You shoulda taken an accounting class or two.

    There are dozens of "funds" created by the government. Some are even "trust" funds. We have highway funds, government retirement funds, medicare and medicaid funds, workman's comp funds, etc. The purpose of the funds are just more methodologies of collecting taxes. All the receipts go into the treasury to be used for government expenses. Expenses such as buying jet planes and ships, paying retirement for ex presidents and congressmen, paying unemployment benefits. Sometimes the government even keeps ledgers to track whether it is taxing too much or paying out too much, such as in the case of social security. Right now the SS fund shows a balakce sufficient enough to be solvent until 2037 before the government has to decide whether to tax more of pay out less.

    Oh, and those special bonds (IOU's) in the SS fund... They are simply there to keep track of interest the fund should have earned had they been real treasury bonds. Of course the bonds are not real treasury bonds. But, if the government wanted to it could turn them into real treasury bonds and sold on the market.

  • Gus Talwynd Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 2:41 p.m.

    This is getting pretty old, Charlie.

    If the Republicans had had their way during the Bush administration, people would have been encouraged to invest their retirement savings in the stock market and have lost it all by now. The only ones to benefit from this move would have been the Wall Street bankers who caused the financial crisis in the first place.

    The government needs to pay back what they owe to the Social Security Trust Fund and keep their fingers out of our retirement funds. George W. Bush tried to further destroy the Trust Fund to the financial gain of his Wall Street cronies make them even richer. Who knows what his personal gain would have been other than lucrative lecture and appearance deals before conservative audiences.

    Appealing to the anti-Social Security crowd can be a profitable industry. Like government they don't like, getting rid of Social Security is a step in re-establishing their dominance over the American people as existed in the early days of the 20th Century.

  • goatesnotes Kamas, UT
    March 20, 2011 2:03 p.m.

    I am amazed at the trust in government expressed here. Astounded!

    Once again, people in this forum (Furry, I'm talking to YOU) want to kill the messenger. This bad news didn't originate with Krauthammer, much as many of you would like to have a whipping boy. In my memory it began with the Office of Management and Budget in the year 2000. Here's how they explained it, and it's too bad Krauthammer didn't just cite the source:

    "These [Trust Fund] balances are available to finance future benefit payments and other Trust Fund expenditures but only in a bookkeeping sense.... They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large Trust Fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the Governments ability to pay benefits." (from FY 2000 Budget, Analytical Perspectives, p. 337).

    Raising taxes, borrowing from the public, reducing benefits.

    Those are your options.

    The cupboard is bare.

  • louie Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 20, 2011 1:47 p.m.

    Krafty Hammer is wrong again. Social Security has not contributed to the current deficit. Social Security should remain as a separate funding mechanism. So why divert conversation away from the real issues such as the huge deficits. In order to balance the budget we need to either get rid of medicaid and/or reduce everything else big time and raise taxes. I encourage the Editorial Board to publish articles that discuss common sense solutions to these current problems.

  • Screwdriver Casa Grande, AZ
    March 20, 2011 12:56 p.m.

    The word broke implies that the money was spent by the SS plan. "SS trust fund stolen" is more appropriate.

    What is broke is the defense department that bought million dollar missles and $500 hammers with our SS money.

    I've served in the USAF, I've seen the waste. $50,000 com radios that only last a few hours and then have to be replaced. We had to do it hundreds of times a year and that's just one squadron and one component example. There's no reason our jets need 5 hours or servicing to 1 hour of flight time other than massive fraud and waste.

    SS isn't broken - it was broken into. For once get it right and address the real problem.

    You can iliminate SS and we'll still have an overspending problem. But they won't illiminate SS or MC. They would have to stop taking money from our checks woudn't they? You'll see no republican bill to illimibate SS or MC, they just want to redirect it to wall street.

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 12:50 p.m.

    Yes and buy lots of gold from his buddies. The more afraid they make you the more gold they can sell and high markups.

  • Hellooo Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    Great article. Why if it is the same as other debt is not included as part of the country debts? Great point, because it isn't and to pay it off the country would have to issued debt and that is what is going to happen unless there is an adjustment in the fund as the article states. Thanks DNews.

  • chilly Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 12:15 p.m.

    Krauthammer has now demolished all liberal arguments concerning the health of Social Security except two.

    1. Harry Reid said SS is just fine.
    2. "Rich people" should be required to pay for my retirement.

  • Blue Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 11:54 a.m.

    Krauthammer's war on the truth continues unabated. By his reasoning, anyone who holds a mortgage that they could not pay off immediately if demanded by their bank is "broke" and should therefore give up their home.

    Krauthammer's arguments have been analyzed by non-partisan fact-checking organizations, and pronounced to be "well-aged hokum."

    You want to "reform" Social Security? Fine, it could use some tweaking.

    We're living a lot longer now - so we need to seriously consider raising the retirement age to 67.

    Accelerating disparities in wages have resulted in shielding huge amounts of wages earned by the wealthiest Americans from Social Security taxes while shifting the burden onto the poor and middle class.

    Social Security taxes were intended to apply to 90% of all American wages. For that formula to work today, the ceiling on Social Security taxes should be around $180k/year. It currently is set at $108k/year.

    There is simply no justification for a person earning $200k/year to pay no more in Social Security taxes than a person earning half that mount.

    The problem is not Social Security, the problem is dishonest rhetoric such as Mr. Krauthammer's.

  • smity Salt Lake City, UT
    March 20, 2011 11:22 a.m.

    It's distressing to see the war on social security here every day in the Deseret News. In this column Mr. Krauthammer acknowledges the debt to China, Saudi Arabia, you and me. It's the you and me part that I'm confused about. The bonds that pay interest to China and people Krauthammer are legitimate, but because social security bonds don't pay dividends to private investors, it can be defaulted on. The intellectual and moral implications of his argument are just awful. Social Security has been a successful pension, life and disability insurance for Americans that they pay out of their working wages. That the full faith and credit of the US applies to wealthy bond holders and foreign nations and wealth funds, but not to ordinary American citizens is ridiculous.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    March 20, 2011 11:02 a.m.

    So if we're broke, why were you suggesting just one week ago that we should invade Libya?

    Chuck, you can't have it both ways. You can't blast the president for not invading Libya one day and then completely blast the president for SS the next.

    Was Chuck bullied as a child? He seems to lead a very angry and sad life.

  • wbm Woods Cross, UT
    March 20, 2011 10:47 a.m.

    To everyone who believes that the Social Security fund is anything more than an accounting trick, I offer the following question.

    What would happen if we passed a law that doubled the size of the trust fund? Congress could declare a 100% bonus interest payment on government bonds in the trust fund. The treasury would then owe twice as much money to the Social Security fund as it now does. Would that solve our current problems with Social Security? Would there be any benefit at all to such and action? If not why not?

  • Furry1993 Somewhere in Utah, UT
    March 20, 2011 9:13 a.m.

    Krauthammer made inaccurate comments, got called and schooled on them, and is now whining because someone didn't take his comments as gospel not subject to any question. Typical Krauthammer. Has anyone seen his clue lying around somewhere -- he obviously doesn't have one.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    March 20, 2011 9:09 a.m.

    Harry Reid told us recently that the SS is fine and that the only people who say it is broken are "government haters". Who are you going to believe, those who know or Harry Reid?