HELP LINE: What will happen ‘if Congress does not act’?

AS NEAR AS I can tell, without doing a lot of extensive research that I don’t have the time (or, frankly, the inclination) to do, here’s what happened:

A whole lot of genuinely decent Americans went off to fight World War II, and they won.

We also lost a lot of those genuinely decent people in the process, which is something I hope we never forget.

Anyway, they won.

On returning home, they did exactly what most of us would have done, under those circumstances: They made babies.

A lot of babies.

And thus was born the “Baby Boom” generation.

It wasn’t exactly our idea per se, but here we are.

So, we grew up and lived and worked (and, of course, made babies of our own) and, for reasons that I also don’t have the time or the inclination to research (but most of us can figure out), we stopped dying on our parents’ schedule.

That is, we started living longer — considerably longer.

This is true throughout most of the industrialized world, but let’s stay focused on the good, old U.S. of A.

Consequently, a lot of us aren’t dead.

“So, what?” you reasonably ask.

Well, I don’t know if you noticed it, but June 5 the Social Security Administration issued a news release to the effect that the combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (known affectionately as “OASI”) trust fund are projected to become depleted in 2034.

That happy news was accompanied by the revelation that the Disability Insurance trust fund had actually gained four years, so wouldn’t become depleted until 2032.

But let’s bounce back to good, old OASI, which is what most of us think of as “Social Security.”

In 2017, there were 174 million folks working and earning dollars covered by Social Security, so they were paying payroll taxes on same.

In that same year (last year), 62 million beneficiaries were receiving Social Security benefits based on the payroll taxes that they paid.

That being the case, the Trustees project that the asset reserves will become depleted by 2034.

At that time, if Congress does not act, Social Security income (from payroll taxes) will be able to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

What?

Right: 79 percent.

So, if Mom is currently raking in $1,000 per month in Social Security, come 2034 (which, I arithmetically point out, is a 16 years away) Mom will be getting $790 per month.

What?

Right.

“Mom’s barely making it now! And you’re telling me that in 16 years, she’s going to have to make it on 21 percent less?”

Right.

“That makes no sense.”

I know, so let’s look back at a key phrase, a few paragraphs above: “… if Congress does not act …”

In my mind, this is not a partisan issue.

True, there are those among us who believe that Social Security should never have been invented in the first place, but (in my mind), it’s just too late for that.

Mom, Dad and the people next door (and, in all probability, you), have come to rely on this thing called Social Security in order to eat, pay for the heat, pay the rent/mortgage, pay for medicine etc. ad infinitum.

That’s just how it is, like it or not.

So, we suddenly whack off almost 25 percent of that and what happens?

Think about that.

No, really think about that — is that a pretty picture?

Right.

“… If Congress does not act …”

“Why haven’t they ‘acted’ before now?”

I don’t know. Maybe because Social Security wasn’t the crisis du jour?

Remember, this is the same crowd that can’t figure out how to run a post office, but: The fact is, we have a problem.

A big problem.

And it’s going to get bigger.

Think about Mom. Think about you.

Now, I don’t want to get all into the various and sundry ways that Congress might “fix” Social Security, because (a) I’m not smart enough, and (b) that could lead to an overtly partisan conversation that I’m not interested in starting here, but I can tell you this:

I spend a lot of my days trying to help Mom (or Dad or … you) figure out how to get by today, even with her whopping Social Security windfall.

How’s that going to go in 2034? It won’t.

What I hope we’ll all do is inform Congress that we actually noticed, and we’d appreciate it if they’d “act” — soon.

I know that Congress excels at filling its days with whatever seems politically expedient at the moment, so could we please make this Social Security problem politically expedient?

Could we raise enough hell to get enough attention on the fact that Mom won’t make it. Period.

She will not make it.

If you’re me, this is not a time to pummel one another with political philosophies.

This is a time to acknowledge a simple reality: Mom is not going to make it. And, in all probability, neither will you.

“… If Congress does not act …”

________

Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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