Social Security Runs Out! (In 2034)

Last Thursday the board of trustees overseeing Social Security released its 2018 projection.

61 million beneficiaries — retirees, disabled workers, spouses and surviving children — will get an increase in monthly benefits. The forecast increase is 2.2 percent or about $28 per month on the average payment of $1,253. Not a lot, but something.

In low wage work world, where I spend a lot of my time, I meet sixty-somethings and we talk about Social Security. They have it figured out. They’d better take what they can from Social Security as soon as they can, because one never knows if the program will be around or for how long. The presumption is the Congress will do nothing to preserve it. I’ll tell you I’m living with a bunch of spoons. That’s to say, none of them is the sharp knife in the drawer when it comes to Social Security.

“Neither Social Security nor Medicare faces an immediate crisis — they both currently have surpluses,” Stephen Ohlemacher of Associated Press wrote. “But the trustees warn that the longer Congress waits to address the programs’ problems, the harder it will be to sustain Social Security and Medicare without steep cuts in benefits, big tax increases or both.”

Those “steep cuts” and “tax increases” need not come now, as some Trump Republicans have been suggesting. The program does need reasoned consideration about who we are as an American society and what, if anything we will do to keep people out of poverty as they exit the work force. The Congress won’t address it unless there is interest from the electorate. In a time when people have U.S. Senator phone numbers on speed dial, “interest” means often and specific contact repeated over and over.

Hillary Clinton concisely stated her position during her 2016 presidential campaign.

“We can never let Republicans cut or privatize Social Security — we should protect and expand it,” Clinton tweeted on June 3, 2016.

Clinton’s statement aged reasonably well despite other options. However, it’s useless for prominent personalities to address the long term issues Social Security faces if people who will use the program don’t speak up.

I encourage people to speak up about Social Security because its future is not guaranteed. A word of advice. Before you open your mouth and remove doubt you are an idiot, learn about the Social Security program here. No need to read all 269 pages of last week’s report, but familiarize yourself with the summary beginning on page two. Once armed with knowledge, and potential questions, contact your federal elected officials and suggest we should protect and expand Social Security now. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

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