Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting Honest About Social Security – Part 2

What are Entitlements?

Entitlement Spending, at $1.412 trillion in FY 2006, is over half of the U.S. Federal Budget. The largest entitlement spending programs are Social Security and Medicare, as follows:

  • Social Security - $544 billion
  • Medicare - $325 billion
  • Medicaid - $186 billion
  • All other mandatory programs - $357 billion. These programs include Food Stamps, Unemployment Compensation, Child Nutrition, Child Tax Credits, Supplemental Security for the blind and disabled, Student Loans, and Retirement / Disability programs for Civil Servants, the Coast Guard and the Military

How Is Social Security Funded?

Social Security is funded through payroll taxes. Through 2017, Social Security collects more in tax revenues than it pays out in benefits because there are 3.3 workers for every beneficiary. However, as Baby Boomers start to retire and draw down these benefits, there will be fewer workers to support them. By 2040, the revenues to pay for Social Security will be less than the expenditures.

How Is Medicare Funded?

Unlike Social Security, Medicare payroll taxes and premiums cover only 57% of current benefits. The remaining 43% is financed from general revenues (i.e. including any surplus remaining from Social Security). Because of rising health care costs, general revenues will have to pay for 62% of Medicare costs by 2030.

Medicare has two sections:

  • The Medicare Part A Hospital Insurance program, which collects enough payroll taxes to pay current benefits.
  • Medicare Part B, the Supplementary Medical Insurance program, and Part D, the new drug benefit, which is only covered by premium payments and general tax revenues.

How Will the FY 2008 Budget on Entitlement Spending Affect the U.S. Economy?

Through 2012, entitlement spending is budgeted at about 10.5% of GDP, with payroll tax revenue at about 6.5% of GDP, so that these unfunded obligations add to the general budget deficit. For example, in FY 2006 Social Security brought in $608 billion in “off-budget," extra funds from payroll taxes. However, other entitlement programs had expenses that far outweighed this “extra” revenue, creating a mini-deficit of $574 billion within the entitlement spending budget alone. The amount increases to $784 billion by 2012.

Long-term Impacts

Long-term, however, the impact of doing nothing about these burgeoning unfunded mandates will be huge. The first Baby-Boomer turns 62 this year, and becomes eligible to retire on Social Security benefits. By 2025, those aged 65+ will comprise 20% of the population.

As Boomers leave the work-force and apply for benefits, three things happen:

  1. The percentage of the labor under 55 stops growing, providing less payroll taxes to fund Social Security.
  2. GDP growth declines to less than 2% due to fewer workers.
  3. By 2040, Social Security alone brings in less than it spends.

Getting Honest

Obama has stated that any further debate on his health care reform proposals needs to be “honest debate”. He implies that critics have been dishonest, which means we’re just lying.

In looking at the facts above, one need only ask the following question:

Are the budgetary problems facing ‘government workers’ in Washington, DC caused by the private sector, or by the government?

Obama wants to overthrow the private health insurance industry and fold it into a government run entitlement. Yet, the federal government has proven itself incapable of managing its current programs. How is adding more of the burden to the government going to resolve the baby boomer issue?

With all due respect, as a wise man once stated,
“government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.”

What we need to be discussing is a way to turn over the government’s primary entitlements: Social Security and Medicare to the private sector, not the other way around. If not, the next thing ‘government workers’ will be proposing is how they can fold State, and private pension money into the black hole of the Social Security Ponzi Fund.

Obama’s solution: Solve a problem by compounding it. “We have to spend more money to keep from going bankrupt.”

American’s are simply saying, “No”.

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