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Old 03-10-2013, 11:35 AM   #1
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Social Security: It’s Worse Than You Think

CONGRESS and President Obama have pushed through a relatively modest stopgap measure to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” but over the coming years, the United States will confront another huge cliff: Social Security.

In the first presidential debate, Mr. Obama described Social Security as “structurally sound,” and Mitt Romney said that “neither the president nor I are proposing any changes” to the program. It was a rare issue on which both men agreed — and both were utterly wrong.

For the first time in more than a quarter-century, Social Security ran a deficit in 2010: It spent $49 billion dollars more in benefits than it received in revenues, and drew from its trust funds to cover the shortfall. Those funds — a $2.7 trillion buffer built in anticipation of retiring baby boomers — will be exhausted by 2033, the government currently projects.

Those facts are widely known. What’s not is that the Social Security Administration underestimates how long Americans will live and how much the trust funds will need to pay out — to the tune of $800 billion by 2031, more than the current annual defense budget — and that the trust funds will run out, if nothing is done, two years earlier than the government has predicted.

We reached these conclusions, and presented them in an article in the journal Demography, after finding that the government’s methods for forecasting Americans’ longevity were outdated and omitted crucial health and demographic factors. Historic declines in smoking and improvements in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease are adding years of life that the government hasn’t accounted for. (While obesity has rapidly increased, it is not likely, at this point, to offset these public health and medical successes.) More retirees will receive benefits for longer than predicted, supported by the payroll taxes of relatively fewer working adults than projected.

Remarkably, since Social Security was created in 1935, the government’s forecasting methods have barely changed, even as a revolution in big data and statistics has transformed everything from baseball to retailing.

This omission can be explained by the fact that the Office of the Chief Actuary, the branch of the Social Security Administration that is responsible for the forecasts, is almost exclusively composed of, well, actuaries — without any serious representation of statisticians or social science methodologists. While these actuaries are highly responsible and careful and do excellent work curating and describing the data that go into the forecasts, their job is not to make statistical predictions. Yet the agency badly needs such expertise.

With considerable help from the actuaries and other officials at the Social Security Administration, we unearthed how the agency makes mortality forecasts and uses them to predict the program’s solvency. We learned that the methods are antiquated, subjective and needlessly complicated — and, as a result, are prone to error and to potential interference from political appointees. This may explain why the agency’s forecasts have, at times, changed significantly from year to year, even when there was little change in the underlying data.

We have made our methods, calculations and software available online at j.mp/SSecurity so that others can replicate or improve our forecasts. The implications of our findings go beyond social science. As the wave of retirement by the baby boomers continues, doing nothing to shore up Social Security’s solvency is irresponsible. If the amount of money coming in through payroll taxes does not increase and if the amount of money going out as benefits remains the same, the trust funds will become insolvent less than 20 years from now.

To save Social Security, which has lifted generations of elderly people out of poverty, tough choices have to be made. One option is to continue raising the retirement age, perhaps to as high as 69 or 70. While the full retirement age is gradually increasing to 67 (for people born in 1960 or later) from 65, this increase is not enough to counterbalance the gains in longevity.

A second option is to increase payroll taxes, for example by taxing wages over $113,700, the current earnings limit. A third is to limit the annual cost-of-living adjustments, possibly by changing how those adjustments are calculated. A fourth is to reduce benefits — for example, by lowering the initial benefits for workers whose lifetime wages are above the national average (currently $43,000 a year). Other choices, in numerous combinations, are possible, too.

One factor that might be considered is new research suggesting that retirement itself, although popular, may reduce life expectancy by breaking lifelong routines and disrupting deep social connections. One might question how much government policy should actively encourage retirement, as opposed to merely making it an option.

Americans need to discuss these difficult choices — and the Social Security Administration needs the ability to improve its forecasting technology by adding statisticians and social science methodologists to help its actuaries institute more formalized quantitative and statistical procedures.

In 1983, after the last time the trust funds ran a deficit, the National Commission on Social Security Reform, led by Alan Greenspan and with members appointed by President Ronald Reagan and Congressional leaders, produced a report that led to changes in payroll taxes. But in the quarter-century since, there have been only modest changes in the program.

We know much more now about mortality and demography, and so an open debate today about Social Security’s future could be even more productive than it was then. The high levels of partisan strife may not make the present seem like the best time to reach a bipartisan agreement. But few issues are more important to more Americans, of both parties, and the longer we ignore the problem, the more disruptive any change will need to be to keep Social Security alive.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/op...hink.html?_r=0


Some more graphs and explanations here:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2...tml?ref=sunday
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:57 AM   #2
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It sounds like they almost regurgitated what the SSA has been saying for a while now, except they shaved 2 years off of the 2033 figure. I'm curious to see what method they used for wage inflation over the course of their projections. In any event, I think most people are aware that something needs to be done to help prolong the trust fund.....I've always liked the idea of increasing NRA for people in our age range (under 30) and increasing the taxable wage base isn't a bad idea, either.

One thing that they didn't mention is that if the trust fund does run out in 2033 the incoming tax revenue will still satisfy something like 80% of the liabilities.
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Old 03-10-2013, 11:58 AM   #3
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I think raising the retirement age is a good thing, seems that people who keep working after 65 have more life to them...for lack of a better descriptor. Other than that, they may have to raise the cap...which is just more taxes on the rich/upper middle class. Without doing that, the system might sink.
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Old 03-10-2013, 12:02 PM   #4
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They could also place a cap on things like the number of ex-spouses who are eligible for benefits based on a worker. If two people are married for 10 years (minimum) and get divorced, the lower earning spouse is entitled to 1/2 of the higher earning spouses SS benefits come NRA. You could have a guy who was married to 3 different women for 10 years each and they each get 1/2 of his SS benefit.
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Old 03-10-2013, 12:55 PM   #5
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They could also place a cap on things like the number of ex-spouses who are eligible for benefits based on a worker. If two people are married for 10 years (minimum) and get divorced, the lower earning spouse is entitled to 1/2 of the higher earning spouses SS benefits come NRA. You could have a guy who was married to 3 different women for 10 years each and they each get 1/2 of his SS benefit.
wow, really? I have brought this up before, but my friend knocked up a pill popper and he now has 100% custody of the child since she's an unfit mother/psycho. She recently got diagnosed with "depression" and her kid now gets $1,000 a month SSD benefits. My friend called up SS and told them he doesn't need the money and they said "you could be Bill Gates and you're still getting this check."

So, even though the mother has ZERO custody of the child, since she's "disabled" her genetic offspring gets $1,000 a month from the government. No questions asked.

I think we really need to fix SSDI. One of my friends from high school turned out to be a heroin addict and he gets it as well. We shouldn't be rewarding drug addicts with tax payer money. Additionally, there are countless disability mills where a doctor will say anyone is "disabled". Newsday ran a story a few years ago pointing out that over 80% of MTA employees were retiring as "disabled".

It's a scam, and we need to stop it.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:09 AM   #6
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I am looking forward to getting everything I put back into Social Security over the years in addition to all that I will continue to give while I am gainfully employed.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:00 AM   #7
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wow, really? I have brought this up before, but my friend knocked up a pill popper and he now has 100% custody of the child since she's an unfit mother/psycho. She recently got diagnosed with "depression" and her kid now gets $1,000 a month SSD benefits. My friend called up SS and told them he doesn't need the money and they said "you could be Bill Gates and you're still getting this check."

So, even though the mother has ZERO custody of the child, since she's "disabled" her genetic offspring gets $1,000 a month from the government. No questions asked.

I think we really need to fix SSDI. One of my friends from high school turned out to be a heroin addict and he gets it as well. We shouldn't be rewarding drug addicts with tax payer money. Additionally, there are countless disability mills where a doctor will say anyone is "disabled". Newsday ran a story a few years ago pointing out that over 80% of MTA employees were retiring as "disabled".

It's a scam, and we need to stop it.
Eh, there's plenty of legitimate cases for SS Disability. In all reality, it is extremely difficult to get on SS Disability and the whole process takes quite a while with plenty of people getting denied. Are there fraudulent/bogus cases? Of course, but that doesn't mean the entire program is a sham.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:02 AM   #8
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Eh, there's plenty of legitimate cases for SS Disability. In all reality, it is extremely difficult to get on SS Disability and the whole process takes quite a while with plenty of people getting denied. Are there fraudulent/bogus cases? Of course, but that doesn't mean the entire program is a sham.
I see first hand on a daily basis that it is not as hard as you think
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:04 AM   #9
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I see first hand on a daily basis that it is not as hard as you think
I also see it first hand pretty regularly that it is not as easy as you think.



Now what do we do?
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:37 AM   #10
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I also see it first hand pretty regularly that it is not as easy as you think.



Now what do we do?
I call you out on your egregious lies
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:42 AM   #11
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I call you out on your egregious lies
I do the same!



From doing simple research it appears that roughly 30% of Disability applications are approved with approximately 2.5% of the total population receiving benefits.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:50 AM   #12
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Take more from the rich.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:55 AM   #13
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Take more from the rich.
That's the general idea by raising the current cap amount.


The cap essentially means that higher-income individuals pay a smaller share of their income in Social Security taxes than middle-class employees. Including the employee and employer shares of Social Security and Medicare taxes, "earners in the middle fifth of the income distribution pay an average effective payroll tax of about 11 percent. In contrast, the top 1 percent of earners pay just 1.5 percent on average."



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Old 03-11-2013, 12:16 PM   #14
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Since the rich and us wise middle class people save for retirement, allocate all of the SS funds to those that are too irresponsible to do so. Hey sharing is caring.
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:36 PM   #15
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Take more from the rich.
I am happy to see you've finally come to your senses. It's time to raise the cap.
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:40 PM   #16
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I am happy to see you've finally come to your senses. It's time to raise the cap.
Lol this should be good
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Old 03-11-2013, 12:53 PM   #17
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That's funny, figures I heard earlier had us a lot worse off. Start killing people at 80? I mean, who wants to live past 80 anyway.
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Old 03-11-2013, 01:02 PM   #18
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That's funny, figures I heard earlier had us a lot worse off. Start killing people at 80? I mean, who wants to live past 80 anyway.
Would help if you posted the "figures" you have heard and where you got them.
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Old 03-11-2013, 02:07 PM   #19
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I am happy to see you've finally come to your senses. It's time to raise the cap.
Here is a simple idea... allow individuals to opt out. Those that are fiscally responsible shouldn't re responsible for coddling those that blew their paychecks on cars and toys.
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Old 03-11-2013, 02:09 PM   #20
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Here is a simple idea... allow individuals to opt out. Those that are fiscally responsible shouldn't re responsible for coddling those that blew their paychecks on cars and toys.
what about the people that didn't blow their paychecks on cars and toys?
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