News - Bill's Blog

Cliffhanging at Social Security’s new website

November 30, 2017

Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration unveiled a new website, which allows people to log in and view their Social Security statements, including earned benefits.

The front page of the website shows a youngish man wearing sunglasses looking out over the ocean, bearing the headline “Set yourself free,” and a sub-headline “Open a my Social Security Account today and rest easy knowing you’re in control of your future.”

This message, however, is deceptive at best.

The federal government’s Social Security program is currently $14 trillion in the red because anticipated tax revenue is swamped by benefits to be paid, under current law.

Where does this unfunded obligation show up on the federal government’s balance sheet?  Nowhere.

The federal government does not include its unfunded Social Security position as a debt on the balance sheet. To justify this treatment, program leaders and government accountants have emphasized that the federal government controls the law, and can change the benefits (and taxes) at any time.

So much for resting easy, knowing you’re in control of your future.

I brought this up at a conference at the American Institute for Economic Research earlier this year, and showed the aforementioned picture. One of the economists quipped, “Oh, that’s not so deceptive. He is standing on top of a cliff.”

I told this story to a visitor today, and he decided to get a little creative. Here’s what he did to that picture (courtesy of Ted Dabrowski, president of Wirepoints)

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