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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Social Security

Not the problem

Your editorial [“Target: entitlements,” Jan. 12] states that Social Security “is heading into a cash deficit in eight years.” According to the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), the Congressional Budget Office said Social Security is capable of meeting all of its obligations until 2048 without any changes at all.

CEPR has repeatedly pointed out it will be able to make up for any shortfall by modestly increasing payroll taxes, as it has done several times in the past, but not since the 1980s.

The sky is not falling on Social Security, and you should not be perpetuating the myth that it is. The myth is propagated by conservatives opposed to any kind of government anti-poverty program and who want to divert people’s retirement savings into the stock market, which is demonstrably much less reliable than Social Security.

The real entitlement problem, as CEPR also points out, is Medicare’s and Medicaid’s ridiculously inefficient and overpriced health-care system based on overpaid doctors, pharmaceutical corporations and insurance companies.

Dealing with entitlements will entail reducing the profits of these industries, not squeezing the poor.

— Chris Nielsen, Shoreline

Running surpluses, not a cash deficit

Have you no shame? Bernie Madoff is a piker compared to what you make of the U.S. Treasury. You conveniently omitted a number of facts from your editorial.

Social Security, at $2.5 trillion, is the number-one holder of National Debt obligations. You state, “It is heading into a cash deficit in eight years.” You omit that it has been running surpluses since 1983 and is currently subsidizing the general-fund deficit to the tune of more than $200 billion per year.

Eight years from now, when payments exceed tax receipts, payments will still be less than the total of tax receipts plus annual interest earned. We are expected to remain this way for the following seven years. Social Security is forecast to hold about $4 trillion of Treasury debt. It is counting on those holdings to finance its obligations through 2042.

If you are advocating that Social Security write off its holdings as uncollectable, then say so. No Congress or administration, whether Republican or Democratic, is willing to make this admission. (Remember the “lockbox?”) Instead, they are pointing the finger of blame at the institution whose regressive taxes have enabled their profligate deficit spending.

If Social Security is prevented from accessing its Treasury holdings and forced to continue this subsidy, what does this say about the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. government, and how is it different from a de facto default on the national debt?

I expect the Fourth Estate to hold politicians’ feet to the fire on this issue, not to aid and abet them in this chicanery.

— Chris Curry, Bellevue

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