If you watch C-Span for a while, you’re sure to hear a politician or pundit criticizing some idea by comparing it to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” It’s a vivid illustration of the short-sightedness and futility of so much of what Washington does superficially to improve failed programs.
In Washington today, however, we are witnessing an unprecedented extension of the Titanic analogy: Both parties and both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are focused on rearranging our deck chairs while there is still time to steer around the iceberg, if only someone would grab the wheel.
This week, the Associated Press reported that for the next two years, the Social Security system will pay out more money than it takes in. The story contained the following bizarre formulation:
“The deficits — $10 billion in 2010 and $9 billion in 2011 — won't affect payments to retirees because Social Security has accumulated surpluses from previous years totaling $2.5 trillion. But they will add to the overall federal deficit.”
How can it be that Social Security has $2.5 trillion in reserves, but that a mere $19 billion shortfall will add to the federal deficit? Because the “surpluses” do not exist. The Trust Fund is empty and has been for years. There is no money in there; just IOU’s. That’s why the 2010-2011 shortfalls will add to the deficit – we don’t have the money.
The very concept of a Social Security Trust Fund is not so much a myth as it is a lie. For decades, Congress has raided the Trust Fund to pay for other government programs and used accounting gimmicks to hide the true size of the deficit.
Oh, and DeMint for Pres in 2012. :D