President Obama will have to Prove He’s a Changed Man
Some on the left are writing hopefully these days that perhaps President Obama has finally realized he needs to back off on his warlike posture on drones and the War on Terror. They are seeing his talk about scaling back the use of drone killing machines and of reconsidering or having his "Justice" Department "investigate" its own outrageous attacks on the press and its use of leaks by government whistle-blowers, as a sign that he is perhaps regaining his constitutional senses and perhaps even “moving” to the left to rebuild support he has been losing in droves.
Put aside for a moment the fact that so far it’s all been just talk. We know the drones are still flying and killing people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere (and there’s no talk of not opening a new drone piloting base in my home county of Montgomery, PA this October). And the national security spy state is going about its nasty business as usual. But in any case, the big test, I submit, of whether this president is actually moving away from his prior five years as president of selling out his liberal, working-class and poverty-struck base to stand instead for traditional liberal and progressive ideals will be Social Security.
On Friday the Social Security Administration will announce that the Trust Fund of money collected through the FICA payroll tax from working Americans over the course of several generations will reach $2.8 trillion this year, up from $2.7 trillion at the end end of 2011. The SSA will further report that this fund will continue to grow, as taxes collected remain greater than the funds being paid out in the form of Social Security benefit checks, until about 2020, seven years from now, when they will reach over $3 trillion. At that point, with increasing numbers of Baby Boomers -- that wave of people born between 1946 and 1964 who began hitting retirement age in 2011 -- beginning to really pile into retirement, the fund will start to shrink as planned. But even with the unprecedented number of retirees, the report will state that the system should be able to pay promised benefits in full -- that’s in full without any changes in the way inflation is factored into benefit amounts -- until 2033. And even after that, if no changes were made at all to increase revenues, current taxes paid in by workers at that point would be able to fund 78% of promised benefits indefinitely into the future, even though we're all living longer than planned back when the fund was being set up.
Hmmmm. In 2033, as a 1949 Baby Boomer, I will be 84 -- assuming I live well beyond my expected life expectancy of 76. Maybe I’ll be lucky, but statistically speaking it’s unlikely that I, or most of my cohort, male and female, born before 1960, will be around at that point. Get that? This is a critical point nobody in the kill Social Security crowd likes to mention, but the truth is that by the time Social Security runs out the Trust Fund, the population it was created to try to anticipate will have basically lived on their benefits and passed on to that Great Beyond where Social Security checks aren’t needed anymore.