More Social Security Scare Stories

The Chicago Tribune may have laid off many of their reporters but it still has a Social Security fearmonger position. Greg Burns told readers that: "As of this year, Social Security will be running in the red for the first time in a quarter-century."

Wow, that's really really scary. Except Social Security was always supposed to shift from surplus to deficit. That is why the Social Security trust fund accumulated a surplus of more than $2.5 trillion over the last quarter century. Rather than being some extraordinary crisis, the shift in 2010 actually means almost nothing to the financial health of the problem.
The fact that Social Security ran into the red this year is one more result of the failure of policymakers and economics reporters to notice an $8 trillion housing bubble.

The article also raises the possibility that the United States might see a declining birth rate and stagnant population. While the article implies that this is bad news, in fact the opposite would be the case for the vast majority of the population. A stagnant population would likely imply a labor shortage and therefore higher real wages. It would also reduce crowding, emissions of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution.

A competent economist would have provided this information to readers.

[Addendum: There is a companion piece on Social Security on the Tribune's website that provides a more balanced picture.]

--Dean Baker

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