Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Social Security Scam

Mises Daily by Mark Brandly | Posted on 5/18/2009 12:00:00 AM

Mark Brandly is a professor of economics at Ferris State University and an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Send him mail brandlym@ferris.edu. See his article archives. Comment on the blog.

The release of the 2009 Social Security Trustees Report indicates that the current economic crisis has negatively impacted the Social Security budget. It's now projected that by 2016 Social Security spending will exceed revenues. According to the report, the financial condition of the Social Security program "remains challenging" and "need(s) to be addressed soon." A look at the numbers shows us the severity of the Social Security budget problem.

Social Security is a "pay-as-you-go" system. This means that when you work, the government takes your money and gives it to Social Security recipients. In order to get workers to accept this system, the government promises to take other people's money and give it to you when you retire. Think of it as an exponentially larger version of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

As long as a lot of people die before collecting any benefits, or die without collecting many benefits, the system is financially sound. In 1950, the worker-to-beneficiary ratio was 16.5-to-1. With people living longer, the worker to beneficiary ratio has fallen to 3.1-to-1 and within 20 years it's expected to drop to 2.1-to-1. Due to this falling ratio, over the years the feds have raised tax rates and now must consider further adjustments.

Let's look at the revenue side of things. Each worker's income below about $106,800 is taxed at a 12.4 percent rate. There are no deductions for this tax. All income is taxable income. Even those in the lowest income brackets have roughly one-eighth of their income taken from them to fund the Social Security system.

Few workers, however, understand the tax burden of the Social Security system. On their paychecks, they see that 6.2 percent of their gross pay goes to pay for Social Security. What they don't see is that employers match this tax payment with an equal 6.2 percent payment. It may seem that employers are paying half of the Social Security taxes, but that's not the case. Even though the employers are legally liable for one-half of the tax, they shift the tax onto workers in the form of lower gross wages. Therefore, the Social Security tax burden, 12.4 percent of each worker's gross pay, falls on workers. Half of this burden is hidden from the workers. FULL STORY

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