Reading List for the Serious Student of Social Security

by Bruce Webb

Want to make the move from wanking to wonking on Social Security finance and policy? Consider the following list.

First read an Annual Report, you don’t need to understand every number but you do need some grounding in the terms and concepts. 2010 Trustees Report

Then fill out your knowledge with this really excellent explanation from current SSA Chief Actuary Steve Goss The Future Financial Status of the Social Security Program

Now for a little something from supporters of traditional Social Security Baker and Weisbrot (1999): Social Security: the Phony Crisis

Read the comprehensive case AGAINST traditional Social Security Cato Journal (Fall 1983): Social Security: Continuing Crisis or Real Reform (pay particular attention to Butler and Germanis’s “Leninist Strategy”)

For some real heavy lifting advanced students can read through the following sections of the Analytical Perspectives on the Budget (OMBs official explanation of the President’s Budget). Ch. 11 Budget Concepts and Budget Process (pdf) (note in particular the Glossary starting on pg. 131). The following will give a good guide to the rest Analytical Perspectives: List of Tables and Charts. The LOT starts on page vii and gives you a guide to chapter titles including Ch. 5 Long Term Budget Outlook, Ch. 6 Federal Borrowing and Debt, and Ch 27 Trust Funds and Federal Funds.

Then you can cross check OMB with the latest versions of these two annual documents from CBO: Long Term Budget Outlook (via CBO Director’s blog) and CBO’s Long-Term Projections for
Social Security: 2009 Update
(2010 version is late this year).

Then to pull all this together with the current policy debate you can read the long version of CBO’s Social Security Policy Options. If you are short on time you can just read the Summary version, but the long version gives a very comprehensive explanation of Social Security overall, and taken with the Goss article above really fills out the picture.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t add this link from The real meat starts about half way through Historical Background and Development of Social Security

No not all of this is the most thrilling read ever. On the other hand not a word of any of it is filtered through me. Heck that should make it worth it right there! Call it ‘Social Security Sans Webb’. Snark aside, those who work their way through even most of this will be heads and shoulders above 99% of commenters out there. And everyone feel free to make additions to the list in comments.