Congress has embezzled our trust fund.
Most people correctly believe that Social Security has been our most successful social program, but as the program matures, it faces many obstacles to its viability.
The first major crisis it faced was in 1981 when concerns were raised about the trust fund running out of money by 1983. The Greenspan Commission was formed, which made recommendations to resolve the short-term financing problems the program faced. A combination of legislation enacting the recommendations, low inflation and the economic boom has contributed to yearly trust-fund surpluses. The proclaimed total is now in excess of $650 billion.
Unfortunately, Social Security taxes are co-mingled with general tax revenues, allowing Congress to spend trust-fund surpluses to fund other expenses within the budget. For example, the 1998 $70 billion surplus existed only because Congress included the 1998 $99 billion surplus when the actual budget showed a deficit. To cover up the embezzlement of trust fund money by Congress, the Department of Treasury has been forced to issue non-negotiable IOU bonds to the trust fund.
Congress has exploited the co-mingling flaw in the trust fund to achieve a spending coup without having to increase income taxes, but at a severe cost to low-income workers. Workers have been hit hard when the regressive Social Security tax has also been used to fund other spending programs.
This has been particularly devastating to the self-employed business people such as entrepreneurs, farmers and ranchers who must contribute at double the normal Social Security tax rate. So much for democratic compassion for workers.
Robert A. Dahlquist, Orange, Calif.