Soc Sec XXXIV: Open Thread/Assignment Desk

Well open threads are good enough for Kos and Duncan and both Matt and Ezra have opened up Assignment Desk threads so I might as well jump on the bandwagon.

I just got finished updating my index for this series at More Social Security Posts from Angry Bear and see that XXXIII was exactly a week ago. While I have been mulling some ideas nothing super compelling comes to mind. So here is your shot to get the discussion going or perhaps suggest ways I could get the discussion going. In the meanwhile I am going to list some useful Social Security resources below the fold.

First it all starts with the Reports of the Trustees of Social Security Recent Reports are available in PDF, HTML and paper formats (delivered with free first class postage paid), older Reports are available in a variety of formats back to 1941. The Reports are a little daunting at first, probably the best way to approach them is through the List of Tables which allows you first to examine the numbers and then scroll up or down to read the relevant text. The key tables are V.B1 and V.B2 which give you the economic projections, V.A1 which gives you demographic projections, VI.A4 historical operations back to 1957, and VI.F7 and VI.F8 which give you projected results out to 2085. Familiarize yourself with these and you too can be a Social Security maven.

Second you want to pay some homage to the godfathers. In 1999 Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot published the ur-text Social Security: the Phony Crisis of which the introduction is online via this link. In all honesty I never read the whole thing, by the time it came out I had pretty much formed my own line of thinking, but if you want some actual professionally trained experts takes on this and an explanation of why the ‘crisis’ is ‘phony’ (not ‘wrongheaded’ mind you, but ‘phony’ as in ‘fake’), this is probably the place to start. (Though the link failed to load this morning).

Third I would take a look at the single most useful visual guide to what I have been trying to convey. EPI: Changes in Trustees Projections over time. The dates and numbers of Social Security are not static they are instead quite dynamic or were from 1997 to 2004 which is the span covered by this table. The point being that ‘crisis’ language that might have been justifiable in 1996 became wildly outdated by 2004. Yet the rhetoric didn’t change even though the major players all knew the score. Which BTW fully justifies Baker and Weisbrot’s title ‘Phony Crisis’. EPI shows you why in a glance.

And to finish it all off Lee A. Arnold put up a first version of Social Security (Ecolanguage) in 2005 and put up a slightly modified version on YouTube in 2006. It is an excellent animation that explains the basics.

If you want to see where Coberly and I are coming from and where we are trying to take people to you could do worse than reviewing these four critical sources.

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