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 Myths Debunked:
Social Security Will "Go Broke" in 2041



This is the headline and lead that went out from the AP yesterday afternoon (March 23, 2005):

Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
AP via Yahoo! News - Mar 23 1:49 PM
The trust fund for Social Security will go broke in 2041 — a year earlier than previously estimated — the trustees reported Wednesday. Trustees also said that Medicare, the giant health care program for the elderly and disabled, faces insolvency in 2020.

The above headline and lead were picked up by:

Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
ABC News - 33 minutes ago

Trustees: Social Security broke in 2041
Miami Herald - 51 minutes ago

Trustees: Social Security Broke in 2041
AP via Yahoo! Asia News - 59 minutes ago

Trustees: Social Security to go broke by 2041
Sun-Sentinel - 2 hours, 8 minutes ago

Though others had a more truthful recap of the situation much earlier in the day:

US Social Security Fund Exhausted in 2041-Trustees
Reuters via Yahoo! News - Mar 23 9:37 AM
The U.S. Social Security trust fund will exhaust its assets in 2041 instead of 2042 as forecast last year, while the Medicare trust fund will be depleted in 2020, rather than 2019, the funds' trustees said on Wednesday.

Social Security Plan to Run Out of Assets in 2041, Trustees Say - Mar 23 9:19 AM
March 23 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Social Security system will be exhausted of assets in 2041, one year earlier than previously forecast, its trustees said today.

Message I sent to the Associated Press and to my media contacts as soon as I saw the AP headline that Social Security will “go broke”:


It is simply not true that Social Security will "go broke" in 2041, and I wish your news service wouldn't help spread that lie.

Read down in any of the articles with the "go broke" headline and you will find out that what the trustees actually said was that the government bonds bought by the trust fund, which the Republicans have been trying to tell us are worthless anyway, will be exhausted in 2041.  But there will still be millions of workers paying FICA every paycheck at that time, just as there are today.  They will be able to provide 80% of the promised benefits to the people receiving payments then.  And yes, the government will have to start borrowing to make up the shortfall, which is exactly why it should be using the FICA surplus right now to pay down the debt, rather than put it in the pockets of Halliburton and other Bush crony executives.

Please stop falling for the lying talking points engineered by the Bush administration.

Carolyn Kay

Soon after that message was sent, this article suddenly became the primary AP output:

Social Security Said to Pay Out in 2017
AP via Yahoo! News - 46 minutes ago
Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits than it receives in taxes in 2017, twelve years from now and a year earlier than previously estimated, trustees said Wednesday in a forecast adding fuel to the debate over changes President Bush wants.

And below is what the AP is saying today.  But the damage is done, friends.  Millions of people saw the headline that Social Security is going to “go broke,” and that’s what they’ll continue to believe.

Soc. Sec. Report Changes Numbers Slightly
AP - Thu Mar 24, 2:10 AM ET
A new report on the financial health of Social Security changed the numbers only slightly and the terms of the political debate even less so.

Just look at how USA Today handled it—as a horse race, rather than as one of the most important issues facing us today.  They don’t explain what new fodder Bush was given, except for the damning and incorrect statement handed to him by his lackey trustees that Social Security will “go broke” in 2041.

Social Security, Medicare report gives Bush new fodder
USA Today - Mar 23 4:28 PM
The Social Security and Medicare Trustees' report was the most eagerly awaited event of the season, but the report gave the president some new fodder.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009