The Social Security Trust Fund Is An Accounting Fiction

The Trust Fund Myth

People tend to think of their Social Security benefits as an actual account, in their name, which contains cash or investments. In reality, the Social Security trust fund contains nothing more than IOUs that have no value beyond a promise to impose higher taxes on future workers. The annual surpluses that many thought were being used to build up a reserve for Baby Boomers have been spent on other government programs or to reduce government debt.

Pay-As-You-Go System

Social Security is not like a savings account in which payroll taxes are saved for retirement. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, meaning that the taxes paid by today’s workers are immediately sent out to pay the benefits of today’s retirees.

The problem with this system is that it only functions when there are a lot of workers paying payroll taxes and just a few retired people getting benefits. This is no longer the case. Our senior population is growing much faster than our working population and this means there are fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees.

No Cash Is Being Saved . . .

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