Social Security: Tune It Up, Don't Trade It In
Henry J. Aaron
Social Security has been the most successful domestic government social program of the twentieth century. It supplies income support to 44 million aged, disabled, and survivor beneficiaries. It provides the majority of income for more than half of elderly beneficiaries. Without Social Security, the incomes of half of the elderly would fall below official poverty thresholds. Social Security is, without close rival, the largest and most well-accepted instrument for extending economic assistance to low earners and large families. It lifts the incomes of 6 percent of all Americans above official poverty thresholds, more than twice as many as all government income-tested assistance in cash and in kind combined. The system is running large annual cash-flow surpluses and is projected to do so for the next two decades. It is adequately funded for the next three decades. Even if no legislative changes were made, 70 to 75 percent of benefits promised under current law could be paid indefinitely. To suggest that Social Security is in "crisis" is to engage in Orwellian doublespeak.
Social Security does, however, face a projected long-term