It’s a cottage industry on the Left to poo-poo the Social Security shortfall: Some say it’s a small, manageable problem; others claim it won’t happen at all. So it’s a surprise to see the New York Times—which itself dabbles in crisis-denial—publish research indicating that Social Security’s problems might be larger than previously thought. Demographers Gary King and Samir Soneji argue that SSA’s methods for projecting mortality are outmoded and significantly understate future life expectancies and the system’s overall shortfall. By 2031, they say, the Social Security deficit will be around $88 billion larger (in today’s dollars) and the trust fund balance $800 billion smaller than currently projected. You can find more details in their full article here.
While I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings preparing for the Social Security Trustees Reports, I can’t judge the accuracy of King and Soneji’s claims. I do know, from a 2005 SSA study, that the Trustees’ projections for life expectancies are on the low end of the reasonable range. So it’s possible they’ve got a point.
However, the authors are misleading in one respect: They state that GOP presidential nominee 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.” The authors deleted the end of Gov. Romney’s sentence—“…for any current retirees or near retirees.” Romney, in fact, proposed indexing the retirement age to longevity along with reducing the growth of benefits for middle and high earners. President Obama, however, to date has made no proposals to fix Social Security.