Letter to the Editor
Catherine Rampell’s column, Why We’re Borrowing to Fund the Elderly While Neglecting Everyone Else (11/22/23), demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how Social Security works. Social Security does not borrow money. Workers’ payroll taxes go into a dedicated trust fund that earns interest and actually helps to fund other federal spending – just like any other government bondholder. The trust fund currently totals $2.8 trillion. Though the trust fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, Congress can close the gap largely by adjusting the cap on payroll contributions so that the wealthy begin paying their fair share. By misrepresenting the way Social Security is funded, Rampell sets up a false choice between seniors’ earned benefits and federal spending on younger Americans, funded by general revenue. She reinforces the false narrative that Social Security somehow is a bad deal for younger people, even though it provides life and disability benefits for younger adults with spouses and children — and retirement benefits in old age. Rampell calls seniors collecting Social Security “lucky individuals” as if they’d won the lottery. In reality, four in ten retirees rely on their modest Social Security benefits for all of their income. Without Social Security, 40% of seniors would descend into poverty. I’ll bet that few young people — including those seniors’ children and grandchildren — would want to see that happen.
Max Richtman, Washington
The writer is president and chief executive of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and a former staff director of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.