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Social Security: It’s Not 1983

April 24, 2012

The Social Security trustees’ report released yesterday moved up the projected date on which the program’s trust fund will become insolvent from 2036 to 2033.  “Never since the 1983 reforms have we come as close to trust-fund depletion as we are right now,” trustee Charles Blahous is quoted as saying in several...

What to Look for in Monday’s Social Security Trustees’ Report

April 20, 2012

The trustees of the Social Security system — the Secretaries of the Treasury, Health and Human Services, and Labor, the Commissioner of Social Security, and two public trustees — will release their annual review of the program’s finances on Monday.  Here are a few things to keep in mind in the meantime.

To Reduce Deficits, "Chain Link" Both Benefits and Taxes

February 22, 2012

Policymakers can gradually trim the growth of benefit programs and boost future tax revenues by using the “chained” Consumer Price Index (CPI), rather than the official CPI, to adjust various federal benefits and provisions of the tax code to account for inflation, our new report explains.

Many economists believe that...

History Lessons from Past Deficit-Reduction Packages

November 16, 2011

Compromise didn’t use to be a dirty word. With revenue increases a major sticking point in the congressional “supercommittee’s” effort to cobble together a budget plan, we looked at past deficit-reduction packages and found that revenue increases were part of nearly every major package in the 1980s and 1990s, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike.

Government Revenues in U.S. Are Low by International Standards

November 2, 2011

I have already noted that government spending in the United States (as a percent of gross domestic product, or GDP) is below average for a developed country, using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Those data also show that government revenues in the United States are low by international standards.

No Need for Social Security Fright on This Halloween

October 31, 2011

The Washington Post says that because Social Security will pay out more in benefits this year than it collects in payroll taxes, the program has gone “cash negative” and will add $46 billion to the deficit in 2011. This claim, which we’ve dealt with before, ignores a huge source of income to Social Security — interest on its portfolio of Treasury bonds — to make it sound like the program faces imminent crisis.

SSI Benefits Vital to Severely Disabled Children and Their Families

October 26, 2011

A House Ways and Means subcommittee will hold a hearing tomorrow on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for disabled children to consider the program’s future. SSI provides monthly cash assistance to people who are disabled, blind, or elderly and have little income and few assets; in September 2011, 8 million people collected SSI benefits — including 1.3 million children under 18.

Here are some important things that lawmakers should know about SSI for disabled children:

Social Security COLA Is Back for 2012

October 21, 2011

It’s official: recipients of Social Security (as well as SSI and certain other programs) will get a 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in January 2012. For most enrollees, higher Medicare premiums will offset some of that increase, but other enrollees will actually see their premiums decline. COLAs preserve the purchasing power of elderly or disabled beneficiaries and are a crucial part of the safety net — something policymakers should recognize as they debate tying benefit levels to a different measure of inflation.

Is Government Spending Really 41 Percent of GDP?

October 18, 2011

Chris Edwards from the Cato Institute generated some buzz recently by stating at a Joint Economic Committee hearing that government spending in the United States is 41 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Although that’s right — by one yardstick for one year — it exaggerates the situation. Edwards used data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which makes several adjustments to the U.S. data that pump up the government’s percentage from levels we’re used to seeing. And Edwards picked a year when that figure is unusually high because of a weak economy.

Here’s what you need to know to put the numbers in context:

Elderly and Disabled Refugees Face SSI Cutoff

September 29, 2011

Up to 4,600 impoverished elderly or disabled refugees will lose their Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on October 1, when a temporary provision of law expires. Several hundred more will lose their benefits each month thereafter. Congress should act quickly to avert the severe hardship that this small but vulnerable group will face.