Sunday, January 9, 2011

Social Security: A Breach of Trust

Reviewed

- By: Larry Walker, Jr. -

Notes on 2010 Financial Statements of the U.S. Government -

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” ~ John F. Kennedy

Proponents of a bankrupt federal government continually proclaim that Social Security is solvent. They boast in the Trust Fund’s fictitious surplus balance of $2.6 trillion as proof. But even Note 24, of the United States Government’s Notes to the Financial Statements, for the year ended September 30, 2010 states that while, “In the private sector the term “trust fund” refers to funds of one party held and managed by a second party (the trustee) in a fiduciary capacity” that, “In the Federal budget, the term “trust fund” means only that the law requires a particular fund be accounted for separately, not that funds are actually set aside.” It further states that, “…as far as the federal government is concerned, earmarked funds, including the Social Security Trust Fund are the property of the federal government.”

In other words, as far as the government is concerned, any money it receives on our behalf may be spent in any way it desires, as long as an appropriate book entry is made. The money we have been paying in towards retirement security has already been spent. Note 24 goes on to verify this by stating that, “The government does not set aside assets to pay future benefits or other expenditures associated with earmarked funds (i.e. Social Security).” And further that, “The cash receipts collected from the public for an earmarked fund (i.e. Social Security) are deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which uses the cash for general Government purposes.”

As I explained in “The Social Security Bust Fund”, the federal government has summarily confiscated and spent every dime of the $2.6 trillion surplus, which would have comprised the Social Security Trust Fund, and has replaced it with non-marketable, special-issue, Treasury securities. Since these special-issue securities are an asset to the Trust Fund and a liability to the U.S. Treasury, they therefore cancel each other out and, according to Note 14, “are eliminated in the consolidation of these financial statements”. However, as we shall see later, they actually do appear on the financial statements and are detailed in Note 24.

During any fiscal year, when a trust fund’s disbursements exceed its receipts, then these special-issue securities require redemption. Note 24 warns us that, “Redeeming these securities will increase the Government’s financing needs and require more borrowing from the public (or less repayment of debt), or will result in higher taxes than otherwise would have been needed, or less spending on other programs than otherwise would have occurred, or some combination thereof.” Since less repayment of debt is a non-issue, the only options the government has in order to pay back what it has stolen from the Trust Fund are to borrow more from the public (i.e. increase the debt ceiling indefinitely), raise taxes, or cut spending on other programs.

In effect, there is no Trust Fund. The total amount of Social Security taxes collected within each fiscal year is spent on that year’s benefit payments. If the total receipts exceed the amount of benefit payments, then the surplus is taken by the Treasury and spent on general expenses. However, if the amount of benefit payments exceeds receipts, such as happened in 2010, then the Treasury must borrow more from the public in order to reimburse the Trust Fund. In the fiscal year ended September 30, 2010, the government collected a total of $552.8 billion in Social Security taxes, and paid out $574.9 billion in benefits. The difference was made up by the Treasury paying out some of the accrued interest that it owes on past borrowings. Of course, the interest which was paid out had to be borrowed from the public because, the government has been running trillion-dollar plus budget deficits for the past two years.

You should review the financial statements of the United States Government for the fiscal year ended September 30, 2010 for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. I have and I am sad to report that the Social Security Trust Fund is nothing more than an empty promise. Let’s check the balance sheet.

As of the close of fiscal year 2010, the federal government had total assets of just $2.9 trillion. As you can see above, there is no account named the “Social Security Trust Fund” which contains a balance of $2.6 trillion. The sad truth is that the federal government would have to liquidate nearly all of its assets including property, plant and equipment in order to raise the $2.6 trillion which it owes to the Social Security Trust Fund. So where’s the money, you ask? Like I said from the beginning, “It has already been spent.”

Among the government’s assets, only $428.6 billion was classified as “cash and other monetary assets”. Digging down into Note 2 of the financial statements, we discovered that the actual amount of cash was just $332.0 billion. Further, we discovered that out of this $332.0 billion, only $112.6 billion (103.6 + 9.0) was actually “unrestricted”, meaning available for use on government operating expenses. The remainder, which was listed as “restricted”, included $200 billion which was held by the Federal Reserve in the Supplementary Financing Program (SFP*), $18.6 billion held by the Foreign Military Sales program, and another $0.8 billion which was curiously omitted from explanation.

The other monetary assets listed were International Monetary Assets of $70.4 billion, Gold of $11.1 billion, and Foreign Currency of $15.1 billion. (It’s interesting to note that the government owns 261,498,900 troy ounces of gold, and that its book value is listed at $11.1 billion, or at the statutory value of just $42.22 per ounce. If valued at the fair market value of $1,307 per troy ounce on 9/30/2010, then the value would actually have been $341.8 billion.) A detailed explanation of cash and other monetary assets may be found in the narrative section of Note 2.

The Supplementary Financing Program (SFP)*

It’s worthy of noting that the SFP is a temporary program that deposits cash with the Federal Reserve to support Federal Reserve initiatives aimed at addressing the ongoing crisis in financial markets. It’s interesting to note that the Federal Reserve has control of more of the government’s cash assets than the U.S. Treasury, and that the crisis in the financial markets is deemed to be “ongoing”. Following is a more detailed explanation of the SFP as reported by Bloomberg, on February 25, 2010:

“The Supplementary Financing Program, in which the Treasury Department sells bills and places the proceeds in a Fed account, will be part of the Fed’s strategy for rolling back its extraordinary assistance to the economy and financial markets, the central bank said in its monetary policy report to Congress yesterday. The report also said the program was temporary and wasn’t an essential element of the Fed’s toolkit.”

“The program helped the Fed manage the more than doubling of its balance sheet as it battled the financial crisis and will be part of the central bank’s eventual efforts to withdraw more than $1 trillion in excess bank reserves.”

“The Treasury said the decision to move to $200 billion reflects the program’s outstanding balance between February and September 2009, before concerns about the debt ceiling forced the government to shrink the program. President Barack Obama this month signed a $1.9 trillion increase in the limit to $14.3 trillion.”

Show Me the Trust Funds

Where is the Social Security Trust Fund shown on the government’s financial statements? As you should understand by now, the government borrowed and spent all of the money and owes it back to the Trust Fund, however, you won’t find an entry matching $2.6 trillion on the balance sheet. Per Note 14, “Intragovernmental debt holdings represent the portion of the gross Federal debt held as investments by Government entities such as trust funds, revolving funds, and special funds. This includes trust funds that are earmarked funds. For more information on earmarked funds, see Note 24─Earmarked Funds. These intragovernmental debt holdings are eliminated in the consolidation of these financial statements.” However, the net amount of all of the government’s sacred trust funds does appear in the Net Position section as Earmarked Funds in the amount of $646.9 billion. What this means is that when all of the government’s various trust funds are netted together, the $2.6 trillion Social Security Trust Fund is reduced to a surplus of just $646.9 billion.

I created the following condensed table based on the one shown in Note 24 (the original is too large to be shown here). As you can see, when the $2.6 trillion surplus balances of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund are netted against a $941.0 billion deficit in the Military Retirement Fund, a $765.6 billion deficit in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, a $406.9 billion deficit in the Medicare-Eligible Retiree Health Care Fund, and the rest of the trust funds, the net balance is just $646.9 billion. This is shown as the amount of “Earmarked Funds” which the government owes to itself out of its $14.1 trillion of accumulated deficits. In financial terms, the federal government has accumulated losses of $14.1 trillion since its inception. It may also be the only entity on earth with the audacity to proclaim that the $2.6 trillion, which it borrowed from funds which were supposed to have been held in trust, is somehow secured by its $14.1 trillion in accumulated losses. In reality, both the Federal Government, and the Social Security Trust Fund are insolvent.

Earmarked Funds (click to enlarge)

In conclusion, the only options that the government has of recovering the $2.6 trillion surplus, which our generation has dutifully paid into Social Security, are to either; (1) borrow more money from the public, (2) increase taxes, or (3) reduce spending on other programs.

  1. Borrowing more from the public, in order to pay back that which has already been borrowed from the government, could put the nation’s credit rating at risk, thus jeopardizing not only Social Security, but our National Security.
  2. Increasing taxes on the public in order to make up for what we have already paid in taxes, which should have been set aside for our welfare instead of having been squandered, is not acceptable.
  3. The only viable option is for the federal government to fundamentally restructure, privatize, or discontinue every governmental agency, program, subsidy, enterprise, and special project which does not take in more money than it spends. This includes all Government Sponsored Enterprises, the Postal Service, and Amtrak. If it’s not making money, then it must either be restructured in a way so as to become profitable, sold to the private sector, or terminated. After that comes the selling off of government owned property, plant and equipment, gold and any other non-productive asset held by the federal government.

References:

Financial Statements of the United States Government for the Years Ended September 30, 2010, and 2009 - http://www.fms.treas.gov/fr/10frusg/10stmt.pdf

United States Government Notes to the Financial Statements for the Years Ended September 30, 2010, and 2009 - http://www.fms.treas.gov/fr/10frusg/10notes.pdf

Current Report: Financial Report of the United States - www.fms.treas.gov/fr/index.html

Fed Says Treasury’s SFP Bills Advance Monetary-Policy Goals - http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-25/fed-says-treasury-s-sfp-bills-advance-monetary-policy-goals.html

1 comment:
  1. X-Linked at America's Party News under Tax, Monetary & Spending Reform - Social Security: A Breach of Trust

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