You figured it had to happen eventually, but it's pretty jaw-dropping when it's Fox News of all people that calls the Bushies on their bogus "Social Security is going bankrupt!!" silliness. What is the world coming to when one has to count on Fox News for actual reporting?
As a tutorial, the administration has been crying for months about how, unless it's fixed (read: privatized and given away to the robber barons on Wall Street), Social Security will go "bankrupt". But, as anyone with the brains of trout can figure out, that simply can't happen. Mathematically, Social Security can't go "bankrupt", for a fairly obvious reason.
As most people already know, the benefits of SS are funded by taxes on current workers. Quite simply, SS just transfers funds from those who are working to those who are eligible for SS benefits. Really, it's not hard to understand. And what this means is that, as long as there are any workers at all paying into SS, there will be benefits. That's it. There is no possibility of "bankruptcy" since, as long as more than zero people are employed and paying taxes, there will be money flowing into SS, which can then pay benefits. So, what's the big fear?
Well, under this scenario, it's certainly possible that the number of retirees is going to overwhelm the number of workers, leaving fewer workers to try to support more and more retirees. Of course that can happen. But (to make a long story short), all that's going to happen in that case, if nothing else is adjusted, is that benefits will slowly have to be whittled back. It's not an ideal situation, but it just as definitely isn't "bankruptcy", as Fox News' Chris Wallace points out to Bush spokesferret and guest Dan Bartlett:
WALLACE (1/16/05): Let's turn if we can to another big issue, maybe the top of your legislative agenda on the domestic front: Social Security. The president keeps saying that there is a crisis, that if there is no change the system will go broke by 2042. Let's look.
BUSH (videotape): I want you to think about a Social Security system that will be flat bust, bankrupt, unless the United States Congress has got the willingness to act now.
WALLACE: As a simple fact, isn't that wrong?
Holy Republican dishonesty, boy wonder! It's pretty hard to more directly accuse someone of being a liar than to just flat out ask them, on national TV, "Isn't that wrong?" Obviously (and to his credit), Wallace has done his homework and knows the administration is full of lying swine and that this story is nonsense. But it's how Bartlett tries to recover that's cause for fits and giggles. Let's watch:
BARTLETT (continuing directly): Absolutely not! And the bottom line is—the fact of the matter is that when you take the Social Security system as it is, this is a mathematical issue, not an ideological issue. In 1950, there were about 16 workers—
Heh heh. First, as a mathematical issue, Bartlett has to know he's full of it. And, to try to salvage the situation, he's clearly going to try the "less and less workers trying to support more and more retirees" scare story, which we already understand has nothing to do with bankruptcy. But these swine are nothing if not predictable. However, Wallace, to his infinite credit, can see exactly where Bartlett is going and cuts him off at the roots:
WALLACE: Let me just interrupt, because I know the fact that there were 14 workers for every person when it was first— The fact is that in 2042, if you did absolutely nothing to the system, it wouldn't be “broke.” It wouldn't be “bankrupt.” In fact, there would be a problem, but you would be able to still pay about three-quarters of everybody's guaranteed benefits.
Exactly! And thank you, Chris Wallace, who represents precisely what we need more of -- interviewers who will simply interrupt right-wing liars in mid-sentence to correct the record. Oh, frabjous day! But let's watch Bartlett try to save himself by (you guessed it) moving them goalposts:
BARTLETT (continuing directly): But what you’re talking about—in 2018 we go into the red. In 2042, you start actually bankrupting the system, which you're having to get funds elsewhere. You're right, the payroll taxes at that moment could pay about 70 percent of the benefits.
WALLACE: But that isn't "bankrupt."
Again, heh heh. Caught red-handed lying, Bartlett has little choice but to admit that "You're right, the payroll taxes at that moment could pay about 70 percent of the benefits," to which Wallace correctly responds that that doesn't constitute bankruptcy -- it represents a completely predictable need to reduce benefits if absolutely nothing else is done, but it's not bankruptcy. Sadly, Bartlett is just too stupid to realize he's been exposed on national TV as he keeps trying to redefine the word to suit his tastes:
BARTLETT: Well, it's absolutely bankrupt, because you're absolutely in the red, and you're having to take dollars from elsewhere. And that problem only continues to get worse.
Note how Bartlett is simply tripping over his own lies by now. In the space of two sentences he claims that SS is "absolutely bankrupt" and will only continue to "get worse." If it's absolutely bankrupt, how can it get any worse?
In addition, earlier Bartlett claims that 'you start actually bankrupting the system', but now, only seconds later, the system is 'absolutely bankrupt'. You see what happens, boys and girls, when you can't remember which lie you told only moments earlier? You start tripping over those lies and embarrassing yourself, to the extent that even a Fox News host finally points it out.
Does life get any weirder than that?
ADDENDUM: I'd like to think I didn't have to explain this part but, for the learning disabled who read this blog, let me directly and explicitly point out the inherent dishonesty and contradiction in the current Republican position regarding Social Security when they, on the one hand, claim that SS will be "absolutely bankrupt" in 2042, while simultaneously admitting that, even if nothing changes, SS will still be able to pay 70% of current benefits at that time.
Now, do we all see the dishonesty here, or do I have to type this more slowly?