The problem with Social Security reform is that the GOP thinks they have all the facts in their favor. I was talking to one right winger who was going on and on about how Social Security is going broke. I knew mere facts wasn't going to do the trick. No was going to have to appeal on an emotive level.
I started to commiserate with them. "Yeah, it's very aggravating that over the last 75 years the SSA collected $4 trillion more (payroll taxes plus interest over 75 years) than they paid out in both Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance and the Medicare Trust funds (pdf)."
What do you mean, collected $4 trillion than they paid out?
Well the payroll taxes started 75 years ago and the SSA payroll taxes collected way more than they needed. That money was supposed to be put into special T-Bills to build interest, and it was, but the reality is those funds ended up in the U.S. General Fund.
My right-winger started to heat up. "And they spent the money! Those bastards!"
I played along, "It's not so bad, the SSA can meet over 90% of it's obligations for a few years to come and come the mid 2020's they will be able to meet 80% of their obligations. That is a long way from broke. Lord only knows how long Enron ran on such a basis before they couldn't. Not that Enron is a great example, but the point is the SSA is far from "broke". SSA payroll taxes may need a tweak, but it doesn't need the major surgery Paul Ryan is talking about. We don't need to raise the retirement age to 70 and we don't need to screw over seniors and near seniors who have less than 16 years to adapt to a new program."
They got a full head of steam, "That's why we have to change the system. People have to be paid less, so all of us can get something! If we do that we'll get the program back on track!"
I looked down, gathered my thoughts and frowned, "So, if I understand what you're saying. You accept the SSA took in trillions more than it paid out and the U.S. Congress spent the funds on other things (like military spending)...stolen, so to speak. And to remedy the situation, you think we need to restore the SSA system where we collect more than we pay out again.....So that Congress can steal the new extra funds too? For what?""Yeah!" ..... They paused, "Well, uh, maybe not."
I took pity, "I don't think we have to do anything major right now and it shouldn't be part of any "grand bargain". Maybe Congress can start with figuring out how to make the system less regressive. Maybe if they raised the cap on SSA payroll taxes first and move from there instead of starting with reducing benefits."
They frowned, "I'll have to think about that."
"Yep, me too."