Robert Samuelson Doesn't Know About the Social Security Tax

I suppose that it is hard to get information about the federal budget way out in the outskirts of downtown Washington. This no doubt explains why Robert Samuelson doesn't seem to know about the Social Security tax. In fact, he doesn't seem to know much about the federal budget at all.

Samuelson complains that the government: "the budget is mainly a vehicle for transferring income to retirees from workers, who pay most taxes." This complaint is based on the portion of the budget that goes to funding programs that largely support retirees, specifically Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Of course the reason that much of government spending goes to support retirees is that a large portion of tax revenues is collected in taxes designated for this purposes. In fact, almost 40 percent of government revenue currently comes from these taxes.

People who know about the Social Security and Medicare taxes are not surprised that a large portion of government spending goes to support these programs. Similar logic explains why such a disproportionate share of government spending goes to pay money to rich people like investment banker and noted deficit hawk Peter G. Peterson. These wealthy people tend to get much larger payments from the government than low-income families because they bought bonds from the government.

Most people understand this situation. It's too bad that the Washington Post could not find a columnist who is not confused by simple budget issues.

--Dean Baker

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