A note to All Things Considered about Social Security
Carlton M. Caves
2005 January 29

It is regrettable that you let Kent Smetters, Associate Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, answer questions about Social Security on the January 28 edition of All Things Considered. He couldn't resist slipping into the first sentence of his very first answer the canard that Social Security "faces a $10.4 trillion shortfall right now." Nothing could be further from the truth. The most recent report of the Social Security trustees projects a deficit of $3.7 trillion over 75 years, when the trustees use the so-called intermediate projection of future revenues and benefits. This is admittedly a large deficit, but it only happens over 75 years, not "right now," and it disappears under the trustees' optimistic projection. The $10.4 trillion deficit comes from pushing the intermediate projection out to a time infinitely far into the future and thus is completely irrelevant to the present discussion of reforming the system and certainly has nothing to with "right now."

President Bush has used the same nonsense figure in his efforts to stir up a sense of crisis about Social Security, but those of us who have listened to the President's statements about Iraq and the economy and the environment know that he is addicted to lying and distortion to promote his case. I would have hoped for better from a fellow academic like Mr. Smetters, but he was introduced as a conservative at the beginning of the segment, so what do you expect? A good project for All Things Considered would be to find a neocon who tells the truth about Social Security. Let me know when you succeed. I won't be holding my breath.

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