Media Backgrounder for Release of 2018 Social Security Trustees Report

Press Release from Social Security Works

As reporters prepare to cover the soon-to-be-released 2018 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports, Social Security Works provides you with this background analysis which summarizes what are likely to be the Social Security Report’s key findings (based on last year’s forecasts), and puts them in context. Please note that this backgrounder addresses only the Social Security’s cash benefits Trustees Report (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Trustees Report), and not the Medicare Trustees Report.

In addition to reviewing this backgrounder, we invite you to speak with our president, Nancy Altman, who is a nationally recognized Social Security expert. (See her bio below.) We also urge you to review our fact sheet that discusses, among other things, misinterpretations by non-experts caused by over-emphasis of unrealistically long valuation periods. You may also want to read Columbia Journalism Review’s “Report Card on Social Security Coverage,” written in response to coverage of the 2012 Trustees Report.

The most important takeaways from the 2018 Trustees Report will be that (1) Social Security has a large and growing surplus, and (2) Social Security is extremely affordable. At its most expensive, Social Security is projected to cost just around 6 percent of gross domestic product (“GDP”). Indeed, in three-quarters of a century, Social Security will constitute just around 6.17 percent of GDP. That is considerably lower, as a percentage of GDP, than Germany, Austria, France, and most other industrialized countries spend on their counterpart programs today! (In 2018, according to last year’s report, Social Security was projected to constitute just 4.93 percent of GDP.)

The report will show that Social Security is fully and easily affordable. The question of whether to expand or cut Social Security’s modest benefits is a question of values and choice, not affordability. Indeed, in light of Social Security’s near universality, efficiency, fairness in its benefit distribution, portability from job to job, and security, the obvious solution to the nation’s looming retirement income crisis, discussed below, is to increase Social Security’s modest benefits. The average annual benefit received by Social Security’s over 61 million beneficiaries is less than $15,000 this year.

Moreover, expanding Social Security not only addresses the retirement income crisis, it also is part of the answer to growing income and wealth inequality and the financial squeeze on working families. Expanding, not cutting, Social Security while requiring the wealthiest among us to contribute more – indeed, their fair share – is the best policy approach to addressing these challenges while restoring Social Security to long-range actuarial balance. Cutting those modest benefits will only exacerbate these challenges.

print Print Page share Share bookmark Bookmark