Contrary to popular myth promoted by Wall Street billionaires, the main stream media, and Washington?s so-called deficit hawks, Social Security is not to blame for the nation?s fiscal problems or our bleak debt and deficit picture. To the contrary, Social Security?s trust fund surplus has been used for years to help balance the federal books. Without it, things would look much bleaker. Yet, the economic recession and the deficits it has caused have given Social Security?s foes a political opportunity to ?go where the money is?to trim rising deficits.Economist Dean Baker, with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, describes this deficit hysteria this way:
This is essentially the story of the latest attack on social security. Everyone who looks at the projections agrees; the scary budget stories being hyped in the media and by the Wall Street crew are driven almost entirely by projections of exploding healthcare costs. But instead of proposing ways to fix the healthcare system, these deficit hawks want to attack social security. They tell us that fixing healthcare is hard. By contrast they think that cutting money from social security will be relatively easy.The facts on this are straightforward and known by everyone involved in the budget debate. The US healthcare system is broken. We pay more than twice as much per person as the average for other wealthy countries…it is easy to show that if we contain healthcare costs then our budget problems are relatively minor. In fact, the current projections of enormous budget deficits two or three decades out would flip over to projections of enormous budget surpluses if our healthcare costs were comparable to those of any other wealthy country.Logic would dictate that our top priority should be getting our healthcare costs under control. But fixing healthcare is difficult because, as we saw in the healthcare debate, this means confronting the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical supply industry, highly paid medical specialists and other powerful lobbies. The deficit hawks don’t want to fight this fight. Defeating these powerful interest groups would be a hard fight. And for the deficit hawks it would likely be an especially painful fight since these are their friends.
Again, let?s not forget that Social Security has not contributed one dime to our growing deficits; however, that hasn?t stopped deficit hawks from conflating the two to achieve their ultimate goal, Social Security benefit cuts.Seniors and their families want fiscal sanity returned to Washington; however, we should not be considering cuts to the very programs which have kept millions afloat during this recovery. Will this Presidential Commission, rise above the political rhetoric, do the right thing, and ensure Social Security does not become a piggy bank to pay for the fiscal failures of the past?We certainly hope so — the future of generations of Americans depends on it.