Instead, the main damage was on the income side, in the form of lower tax revenues and less interest.
As the Social Security actuaries have noted, the projections in the 2008 Trustees’ report — published in April of that year — didn’t anticipate the financial crash and the deep recession. (Neither did other projections around that time.) Comparing those 2008 projections with the actual outcomes roughly measures the recession’s effect. As the chart below shows, DI income in 2014 fell more than 20 percent below the Trustees’ projection, whereas DI spending — after being briefly higher — was slightly lower than projected.
At the end of 2014, the DI trust fund held $60 billion in assets — $152 billion less than foreseen in 2008. Here’s how economic developments worsened DI’s finances over that period:
In short, the DI trust fund is in poorer shape than experts expected before the Great Recession —though that follows a long period when it performed much better than forecast. As a result, the fund must be replenished in 2016 — exactly as projected when lawmakers last reallocated taxes in 1994. The financial deterioration doesn’t indicate a “failing” or “unsustainable” program.