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The Sound of Ideas

The Sustainability of Social Security

Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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Social Security is called the safety net for seniors, the disabled and surviving spouses. This week the program turns 75. Should we be celebrating a birthday, or worrying about its health? For the first time since 1983, the program collected less money from workers than it paid out to beneficiaries. Many folks worry, but some economists say there's no cause for alarm. Wednesday morning at 9, we'll examine how well Social Security has worked and whether it will keep working for a long time to come.


Economy, Government/Politics, Other, Aging/The Elderly, Community/Human Interest


Dean Baker, Co-director, Center for Economic and Policy Research
Mark Votruba, Associate Professor of Economics, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University

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Jim Miller 8:39 AM 8/11/10

To morning program:

I get Social Security right now, and I can’t think of anything
more secure in my life and in the future retirement of my son, who is only 24 now.
Nothing in life is completely secure - my house could burn down, I
could be hit by a car later today, a giant asteroid could hit Cleveland
tomorrow. 401(k)’s - relatively insecure; and, interest income has dropped
to under 1%.

Social Security is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States,
and invested in Treasury bonds. You’ll notice that in the present deep
recession money from all around the world has been flooding into US
Treasury bonds.

Jim Miller

tim montgomery 8:45 AM 8/11/10

A couple of years ago I went to the SS site and crunched some numbers. If we eliminate the salary cap we could cut the current rate about in half. Any comments?

Steve 8:45 AM 8/11/10

Totally disagree with the caller who suggested that individual investment is superior to Social Security.  I saved all my working life in IRA’s and the like but had their value decline by 75% in the stock market decline just as I retired. Leave SS alone.

Malissa in Shaker Heights 8:49 AM 8/11/10

My husband and I are in our mid 30s. We save approximately 20% of our income each year for retirement. We’ve been working with a financial planner for nearly 10 years, and we always tell him to exclude Social Security from his projections in terms of what we’ll have when we retire and what we’ll need to save to meet our goals. We don’t think Social Security will be there for us, so we’re not counting on it. If it’s there, then it will be a nice bonus for us.

Steve, Cleveland 8:52 AM 8/11/10

Social Security has ALWAYS been a Pay-As-You-Go Insurance plan....the fact that for a period that it was collecting more than was immediately needed to make current payments is really a bit irrelevant.

Current workers have always been paying for a current retiree or disabled person, from day one. So keeping a healthy ever-expanding workforce IS the only solution.

John in Cleveland 8:53 AM 8/11/10

The only overhaul I can see happening is that Congress keep their grubby little paws out of the Social Security till.  It’s my understanding the Congress has raided the Social Security funds to pay for other pet projects viewing it as surplus.  It was not a surplus but funding set aside for our retirements.  I should not be paying for a current retiree.  The retiree should be collecting from monies that Congress has squandered over the years.  I think the government should pay back what it took out of the till and add it to the federal deficit and reshift the debt where it belongs.

William from Cleveland 8:54 AM 8/11/10

Why isn’t Social Security recognized as a degenerating Ponzi scheme:
· Current contributors’ monies are employed to pay off prior contributors

· Subsequent contributors are inadequate to perpetuate the scheme.

Kathy 8:56 AM 8/11/10

It’s very clear that the conservative agenda is to create a wider gulf between the rich and the poor.  Shame on them.

Susan 11:21 AM 8/11/10

Social Security is an important complicated topic with a long history. Information from experts about it’s history and details is most welcome. And actual experiences and thoughts of listeners help illuminate the complexity and clarify details when experts can respond. Much less helpful are opinions callers who are not experts and who don’t tell us the actual experiences or training they have on the topic. When a caller expresses opinions on important complex topics I think the moderator should ask what actual experiences or training the caller is basing their comments on. Otherwise your show just gives valuable airtime to ungrounded undocumented verbage, often the worrisome verbage. Not helpful. Especially when you have experts on the air or online and people in the audience with actual experiences, or opinions based on experience, or training. When you ask your callers what they have to say on an important complicated topic, please ask them to tell the listeners what their thoughts are based on.


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