Friday, February 11, 2011

Social Security doomed, doomed I tell you

There is no government program on as sound a financial footing as Social Security.  It's fully funded through 2037!

The annual deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets in amounts less than interest earnings through 2024, and then by redeeming trust fund assets until reserves are exhausted in 2037, at which point tax income would be sufficient to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits through 2084.
As Paul Krugman always asks, why would we cut benefits now in order to forestall cutting benefits later?

No private enterprise comes close to a projection of solvency until 2037.  Still, Republicans and their enablers want to gut Social Security, mainly because they're against government programs, not because of real financial straits.  The reform of 1983 that prepared it for the bulge of retiring boomers worked.

Granted, projections flow from their assumptions:

Any projection which goes out 27 years is so incredibly reliant on the embedded assumptions about growth, employment and lifespans that it amounts to a fiction. It is, at best, a guess.

Increase growth by just a little bit and the entire "problem" goes away. Get rid of the taxation cap so the rich are not capped in what they pay and the entire problem goes away. Assume higher employment, and the entire problem goes away. Assume a reduction in inequality, and the problem goes away.

The US has a number of problems which are at or near crisis, such as employment, inequality and healthcare costs, to name just a few. Social Security is not one of them. It isn't even close, and politicians and billionaires like Pete Peterson who are trying to gin up a crisis should be ashamed of themselves.
There is one thing that could cause trouble for Social Security.  People could start living forever.  Harvard says its researchers have found "the core pathway of aging."
By unifying several major pathways of aging under the umbrella of telomere dysfunction, he said, the findings may yield new targets for therapies. The discoveries also may underlie the relatively sudden and rapid failure of the body leading to the end of life.

“Because telomere dysfunction weakens defenses against damage by free radicals, or reactive oxygen species,” DePinho said, “we think this exposes telomeres to an accelerated rate of damage which cannot be repaired and thereby results in even more organ deterioration. In effect, it sets in motion a death spiral.”
These therapies would be a great problem to have!

But note that university publications almost always oversell the results of their research scientists.  Programmed cell death has been known for a long time, as have the role of telomeres in it.  This research merely found a more extensive role for telomeres.

Sure would like to get my hands on some telomerase though!

When people routinely live to be a hundred, you can talk reasonably about significantly raising the Social Security retirement age.

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