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The Truth About Social Security: Setting the Record Straight

The Truth About Social Security: Setting the Record Straight

Nancy Altman

President Franklin Roosevelt signed our Social Security system into law eighty-three years ago today, on August 14, 1935. It has stood the test of time.


The rich irony is that SS has been built by WE THE PEOPLE in the simple elegance of peoples caring for each other, while the parasitic elements, which play autoerotic games with their deep need to generate draconian tomes of mid-evil jargon in “bills” used to bilk the producers of value because spendthrift is not synonymous with prudence.

Were it not for the contortions required by predatory capitalism, there would be more than enough and the creativity indices would be in full flight and we would be seeing changes we can’t even yet imagine.

Boycott the contortions! Go local as much as possible, become familiar with co-op principles and practices… and EXPLORE!!


Those who would “reform” social security", (take from, reduce, expel from, etc.), have no idea what it’s like to find oneself in need of it. Take away that silver spoon, that inheritance, those ill-gotten millions and they would experience the concrete bed and cardboard ceiling too, just like many other working people of retirement age if it weren’t for the safety net of social security. It was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now, or are we not a compassionate people but a cold-hearted, greedy one? Vote compassion.


Social Security has been under attack by the predatory rich since its inception, as that large and growing pot of money is to them as a dying man is to the vultures circling overhead. Calling it and Medicare/Medicaid “entitlement programs” is their way of dog-whistling recipients and future benficiaries into opposition, against their own best interests.

Removing the cap on earnings subject to FICA withholding—and expanding Medicare to all citizens with no co-pays or deductibles!—should be our civic duty to ourselves and our neighbors.


As ‘theoldgoat’ calls our government bills 'mid-evil jargon" they are named the exact opposite of what they do, so calling SS and Medicare ‘entitlements’ (even though we are entitled to them b/c we paid for them by working) allows the 1% to look down their noses at we peons and believe they are the ones who are ‘entitled’ to what they have when the truth is their ‘entitlements’ are the ones based on government largesse, and that is why they are the narcissistic hoarding dregs!


There is a social security trust fund but Presidents “borrow” from it. It means the federal government owes the money to the fund. LBJ borrowed to finance Vietnam. Reagan to finance his military build up. Bush to finance Iraq. No doubt the Trumpers have or will borrow for their large increase in military spending. Under Trump the deficit is close to $1 trillion thanks to his tax cuts for the wealthy. For me social security keeps me alive.


Any SS surplus is required by law to be invested in Treasury obligations.


The elites DO “understand Social Security”. Unlike Altman, many elites “understand” it as a pot of money to be raided to transfer wealth from the 99% to the 1%.


The most vicious right-wing lie about Social Security is that it is a US government welfare program that is busting the budget. By law, Social Security cannot affect the federal government debt or deficit. The federal government spends nothing on Social Security.


Surplus contributions by law must be invested in Treasury obligations. By definition those funds increase the debt. The rest of what you said is mostly accurate.

Where it will get interesting is if / when the surplus has been exhausted and the program is underfunded.

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Since I became disabled, SSD and a small VA disability check are my only income as well. They provide me with an income well below the federally established poverty level. However, I will be ever grateful for it for, without it, I would be homeless and surely not survive long. When I could work I paid in to the fund. Now I need it. Hands off, reformers!


Wrong - those funds are not currently counted as part of the national debt or of the budget deficit. Currently, when the Soc Sec Trust fund runs a surplus, that surplus is counted against the deficit - not as part of it.

Example -

  1. Soc Security runs a $100 billion surplus
  2. rest of budget runs a $500 billion deficit
  3. Government sells $100 billion in bonds to Soc Security and $400 billion to other entities
  4. Government declares they had a $400 billion deficit that year (and add $400 to the national debt)

Sounds like the “fuzzy math” Dubya talked about during his 2000 campaign.


But by no definition did Social Security cause that debt. The Congress caused it, because it refuses to raise enough money from taxes to pay for its spending.


"In particular, Social Security was not designed to alleviate the suffering of people caught in the immediate distress of the Great Depression, nor to get people to quit their jobs. Rather, it was set up as wage insurance that people earned.

This should be obvious to anyone with even a superficial knowledge of Social Security’s history."

Yes Ma’m, thank you very much. I do happen to have more than a superficial knowledge of Social Security and the history of that system, including one entire graduate-level course and reading surely at least a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles on why it should be privatized by that ugly little troll Martin Feldstein, a Harvard professor of economics, who was interviewed in the movie Inside Job dismissing the idea that university professors bore any responsibility for the Crash of 2008.

Not surprisingly, everything you say is correct to the best of my knowledge, and another piece of the crime wave we have been witnessing for nearly 70 years is that at least 9 in 10 people in this country believe that everything you say is false.

Unfortunately the article does not mention your latest book, The Truth About Social Security: The Founders’ Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings, due out TODAY I believe. I have it on order, definitely not from Amazon. I recommend that everyone in this forum buy two copies from your local independent book store (Jeff Bezos is far worse than Martin Feldstein and he doesn’t need any more of your money)–one to read, and one to send to your representative in Congress.


Social Security is our money. Not theirs.

The thieves in the Duopoly are salivating at the thought of taking it from us.

Be prepared to defend your property if the thieves come for it.


Thank you Nancy Altman. Social Security could best be protected and expanded by eliminating the cap on payroll deductions. It should be tied to the cost of living and available in full when one turns 60 (as is the average age of pensioners internationally). Beyond Social Security and Medicare for all, a Universal Minimum Income is needed in our increasingly mechanized economy and a Universal Maximum Income would help underwrite it. All of us deserve a guaranteed floor for basic security upon which we can build through our efforts and work.


Is that kind of like how the tooth fairy works?

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I agree totally.

Any attempt to mess with Social Security will result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of retired and disabled American citizens.