Washington's debates on Social Security can have real local impact

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Despite its reputation as the political "third rail," there's a good chance Social Security will have to be changed if there's any hope of bringing the federal deficit under control.

Why? Because, as bank robber Willie Sutton was supposed to have said, "that's where the money is."

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 20 percent of 2010 federal spending, $701 billion, was expected to be spent in Social Security benefits. That's almost the same as the Defense Department, and $92 billion less than Medicare and Medicaid combines. Other mandatory spending is $416 billion, or 12 percent of the total budget, leaving only $660 billion, or 19 percent of the federal budget, under quick, direct control of Congress and the president.

It doesn't take an economist to see the problem with the federal budget -- the government planned to spend $3.456 trillion in 2010, but only expected income of $2.182 trillion in tax receipts, the rest added to the federal deficit.

It's easy to talk about radical changes to the system -- in fact, it will take serious changes to fix the problem -- but consider the possible effects, right here in Red Willow County.

According to Bill Bishop and Roberto Gallardo of "The Daily Yonder" rural website, if Red Willow County residents didn't receive their monthly payments from the Social Security Administration, 8.1 percent of the total personal income in the county would be lost, for a total of $31.637 million in 2009.

With a high number of retired residents, Red Willow County is more dependent on Social Security than the rest of the country, where 5.5 percent of total personal income in 2009 came from Social Security, the same rate as Nebraska as a whole.

In our county, 2,485 people received some form of Social Security payment, either in the form of an old age pension, in survivor benefits or a disability check, according to the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Social Security beneficiaries represent 23.3 percent of the total county population.

Social Security payments in Red Willow County amounted to $2,970 per person in 2009, compared to a national average of $2,199 per person and$2,203 in Nebraska.

And it's a growing trend. Social Security payments amounted to 5.3 percent of total income in 1970, 6.7 percent in 1980, 7.6 percent in 1990, 8.4 percent in 2000 and 8.1 percent in 2009.

Bishop and Gallardo pointed out how important Social Security payments are to the economies of small communities as a whole, because most of the money is spent locally.

"The seniors who get these payments are primarily going to spend their money locally," said Mark Partridge, a rural economist at Ohio State University. "And they are a key reason why some communities are still viable. If this money dried up, there wouldn't be a lot of these small towns."

So pay attention to the debate on Capitol Hill when it comes to Social Security and other "entitlements." Even if you're not yet receiving such benefits, the paycheck you earn may be affected.

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  • Consider a prioritization format, for reducing the budget to a point of having NO deficit.

    Prioritize, One through Ten, with 'One' representing 'First to be dumped,' Two, second to be dumped, and so on, with Ten being programs like Social Security which is paid into by the Tax Paying public.

    In each program, above rating 'Five,' install interior priorities, so the individual program can be 'trimmed' to reduce waste.

    I, for one, resent that Congress, and the White House, feel they should make maximum reductions in the very programs that Congress 'stole' the cushion excess funds from, with a guarantee that Congress would never allow the program to be strangled of funds. Alas, Congress lied.

    So long as this country can dole monies out to countries, sworn to murder our people, and UN programs that would take land away from our ally's to recognize a 'non-nation,' so-as-to make a Terroristic group, into a nation, illegally, Once again, someone need tell 'Houston' """We have a Problem.""" Cowards like to kill off the 'Old folks' first, because they can't fight back. In my Opinion, White House, and Congress, is trying hard to become Terroristic in behavior, under the guise of patriotism. B U L L ! (and that is as nice as I can keep it, so I'll shut my mouth for a tad).

    Arley Steinhour

    -- Posted by Navyblue on Tue, Nov 1, 2011, at 5:49 PM
  • According the the Congressional Office of Budgeting and Management, the Social Security program is solvent as far ahead as 2035. I am attaching a link that shows in detail how this works out: http://www.cbpp.org/files/3-4-10socsec.pdf

    It looks to this observer that a political game is being played here trying to scare people, in a time of considerable uncertainty, to get support for their points of view --- after all, there would be a huge profit to be made if the Social Security revenues were to be privatized into the financial markets. We've seen how well that works out.

    If any changes are needed, the most obvious (and probably least popular) would be to means-test the benefits.

    Just sayin' ......

    -- Posted by Virginia B Trail on Wed, Nov 2, 2011, at 7:26 PM
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