Social Security - 2012 Results

Bruce Krasting's picture




Social Security (SS) has released its estimates for the December data for benefits payed and taxes received. With this info, I can estimate the 2012 results that will be formally reported in five-months. It was a ho-hummer of a year for SS, it tread water vigorously, and ended up with a cash deficit of $46.7B, just a tad more red ink that 2011’s $45.6B. The pieces of the pie, and YoY comps:


Payroll tax receipts: $712.7B (+6.5%)

(Includes payment from Treasury Re the 2% tax cut)

Income from Tax on Benefits $27.1B (+15%) !!

(Means test)


Total Cash Receipts $739.8 (+7.0%)



Benefit Payments $780B (+6.9%)

(Includes RR interchange)

Overhead $6.7B (+4.7%)


Total cash Outlay $786B (6.8%)


Net cash flow loss $46.7B (+2.4%)


Interest income $111.4B (-1.7%)


Accounting surplus $64.7B (-2.5%)

(Paper minus cash)


Number of Beneficiaries 56.8m (+2.5%)


Some thoughts on these results:


- The $46.7B annual cash deficit is the third in a row. The 2012 shortfall confirms it; SS will never see a cash flow surplus again. Every dollar of the cash shortfall MUST be funded by selling additional debt to the public.


I hope this is clear. I’ll repeat it. Social Security is adding to the debt held by the public. It is forcing the country to borrow more to fund current operations. When Senate Democrats, like Dick Durbin and Harry Reid say, “SS does not add a penny to our debt.”they are lying.



- The Tax on Benefits is up to a meaningful $27.1b (+15%). The increase is the result of many newly retired folks who are getting SS, and also have other income (investments and pensions). This forces them to add the SS income into their tax base. THIS IS A “MEANS TEST”.


I emphasize this fact as there is very strong opposition to the concept of a means tax for SS by Democrats in Washington and the liberal press (Dean Baker). But it already exists!


Liberals don’t like means testing because it undermines the principals of SS. It makes it appear that SS is a form of welfare. The fear is that if SS is labeled as welfare, the popularity of the program would quickly wane. So the staunchest supporters of SS are avoiding a fix that could patch the finances for the worst reasons. They are supporting Roosevelt’s dreams, at the expense of the base they say they are trying to protect. Only in America….


The problem with the existing Tax on Benefits is that it does not cut deep enough to fill the bucket. I advocate that the tax bite for high-end seniors be increased. I will go further, and state that the means test for SS benefits should be based on assets, not just income that can be manipulated.


My strong feelings on means testing SS benefits are to my personal disadvantage; my SS benefits would be gone under my plan. I say this now, as I know there will be many who will throw rocks at me for my stance. I can already see the words, “I paid for it, the money is mine!” I say,"Sorry, this will come sooner or later."


My gripe is that the generation that is causing the problem, the Baby Boomers, is getting off scot-free. All of the proposals to tweak SS (Age and inflation adjustments) would phase in over twenty-years. With this, the bulk of the baby boomers would get a free ride. This doesn’t seem fair at all to me. Society, as a whole, will have to pay for the Boomers, but the Boomers should shoulder a higher percent of the cost. By no means should their political clout result in an unfair outcome. This is a political "Kick of the Can", "screw folks sometime in the future". A downright ugly plan at that.





- In 2012 the Treasury paid SS $115B to offset the drop in income related to the 2% reduction in payroll taxes for the year. The operating results (including the Treasury contribution) still produced a cash flow deficit of $46.7B. In other words, the shortfall for 2012 added $162B to the borrowing requirements at Treasury. This borrowing resulted in a dollar-for-dollar increase in the Debt Owed to the Public.



- There was an improvement (+6.5%) in the YoY payroll tax income. A portion of the better results are annual “Adjustments”. 2012 had positive adjustments to revenue from the prior year totaling $2.1B, while 2011 had negative adjustments of $8.6B. Taken together, the real rate of increase for revenues at SS is closer to 5.2%. This data can be used to create an estimate of total payroll income (Adjusted payroll income / Tax rate {12.4%} :


2011 estimated SS total payrolls = $5.658T

2012 estimated SS total payroll = $5.951T

YoY change = $293B (1.8%)


The ~$300B of increased pay seems like a very big number, but when you consider that inflation is running at about that same 1.8%, most folks are getting no place fast.

I draw this comparison to make a point about the huge numbers that are part of the economy. A $300B increase in worker's incomes doesn't move the needle at all. Amazing...

Note: This quickie numbers analysis does not reflect the cap of $106.5K on SS tax, nor other sources of income that is not taxed by SS. I don't think this skews the results/conclusions by much. Social Security has 155m in its pool, significantly larger than the Non-Farms Payroll (135m). These numbers cover a big slice of the American pie.



- The YoY increase in Benefits of $50.1B (6.9%) is a reflection of A) A COLA increase of 3.6% and B) A net increase of 1.4m in the number of beneficiaries. The costs at SS rose at a pace that is far higher than the economy grew in 2012. Approximately 11,000 people enter the system every day. 7,000 current members of the club, well, they leave the system 24/7.



- Interest income is down 2.5% in 2012. The decrease of $1.1B is modest, but also significant. The passage of time and ZIRP/QE, has caught up with SS’s investment portfolio. The interest income at SS for 2011 will prove to be the zenith; from now on, the interest income at SS will be in annual decline. This is an important milestone, a decidedly negative one at that.

The Federal Reserve has cheapened the cost of money at the expense of SS. One can argue the merits of this tradeoff, but what can’t be argued, is the consequence to SS. If the Ten-Year were at 4% (Versus the 6% long-term average) it would add $700B to SS interest income over the next (critical) ten-years.

If you listen to Bernanke, the other Fed Doves, guys like the WSJ’s Jon Hilsenrath, and all of the economists on TV, you would think that there is no consequence to the government of perpetual cheap money. Actually, what Bernanke is doing is dramatically shortening the day of reckoning for SS. The current thinking is the SS “go bust” date is 2033. But when SS releases its annual report in May, it will confirm that the date has been brought forward a few years, and the culprit is cheap money. I wish that someone other than the blog world would point these things out. Bernanke is no pal of SS, Very Important People, like Paul Krugman, love SS and also hail Bernanke's endless cheap money. I guess they don't see the conflict.



+++ (finally, sorry for running on)

- There was no crisis at SS in 2012, and there won’t be a real crisis for a number of years to come. The growing annual cash deficits are now “programmed” to happen. This gives Democrats the opportunity to say, “Hands off SS”. “It ain’t broke, so don’t try to fix it”.

My guess is that the Democrats will prevail on SS with regard to the current fiscal cliff debate. As a result, there will be no changes to SS. Should that be the outcome, in about five years the wheels will fall off the cart. By then, SS will be running cash deficits of at least $200B a year. It will be much harder to “fix” than today.



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Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Socialism Security will never fail ...

Bloomberg for 4th term.

Barry O for 3rd.

FDR did it, come on boys, why not?

Until you can compete directly with Chinese labor its all smoke and mirrors anyway.

Oldwood's picture

I have had this argument with many of my conservative friends. They think we can just stop spending and SS will be saved. I believe as others here do that the money is gone, just as Madoff or Corzine’s, it has vaporized. We can stamp our feet madly demanding to be made whole on this, but if we keep pushing there is going to be pushing back. Obamacare has pretty much assured us that elder care is going to be more about funeral planning. We try and force the younger generations to take even larger chunks out of their dwindling pay and all kinds of tragedy may well befall us. Also to your point about social security being transformed into welfare, if they means test it, they should be forced to call it what it is. It’s bad enough we will all be screwed by this but it is too much to expect us to take another big lie and keep calling it insurance. It should be funded from general revenues and no longer be an employment tax. As a self-employed person I have been paying almost 16% for all of my working life and they have continued to raise

the income limits. Now they are talking of eliminating any limits while converting it into welfare. It’s just too much to take!


dark pools of soros's picture

again so many think that the system is suppose to be sustainable 'for the people' instead of the complete scam that it is

if there was a better scam out there, they would pull the plug tomorrow and run with their loot, but there isn't so they just bleed it slowly while waiting for that day of desertion to arrive

southerncomfort's picture

Ah just call the dang thing a WELFARE TAX and move on!  Everyone always wants to get their knickers in a wad over politicians turning out to be the absolute bloviating liars everyone already knows they be!  

goodrich4bk's picture

Despite their reputation for above average intelligence, three common SS myths appear to have been accepted as true by many of the posters here:

1.  The SS trust funds were supposed to be in a lock-box and untouchable by the government;

2.  Congress "looted" the SS trust funds; and

3.  The SS trust fund "cupboard" is bare.

Each of these statements is absolutely false.  The "trust funds" are simply the amount of SS taxes collected which exceed benefits.  Taxes have exceeded benefits for many years because SS taxes were raised in the 1980's for this very purpose, to pay for the Boomers' eventual retirement.  The accumulated surplus taxes are now evidenced by non-marketable treasury securities of various maturities payable to the SSA.  THE CUPBOARD IS NOT BARE.  It owns these securities.

Where did the money that was used to buy these treasuries go?  Where all treasury proceeds go: to fund the government's operations.  Complaining that Congress "stole" the SS trust funds is like the Chinese government complaining that we "stole" the money it paid us for our treasuries.  The trust funds are not a pile a cash sitting around earning no interest.  They were invested in treasuries.  WTF is wrong with people who run around claiming otherwise?

Finally, SS is not "broke" nor is it at risk of running out of money.  With no changes at all (including no changes to the COLA provisions each year) it will pay about 80% of benefits even after its cubboard truly becomes bare, i.e., it only has current SS taxes to pay beneficiaries.  For all we know, that may be plenty to provide retirees with a comfortable retirement.  Of course, it may also not be enough, but all this fear over SS going "broke" is crap sold by Wall Street to get younger Americans to abandon the program.

And for some of you here, it appears to be working.


Bruce Krasting's picture

You look at this from the narrow pespective of SS. Step ouside that box and look at it from the perspective of the country.

The Assets of SS are the Liabilities of the rest of the country. The sum of the two is zero. Everything else is accounting.

Oldwood's picture

Exactly! Where is our big brother going to get the funds to redeem those coupons? Print, tax or sell more?

That money is gone unless they dig it out our our pockets.

Moe Howard's picture

Let us put all the SS "I.O.U." stored in the Grand Keagle Robert Byrd Memorial Social Security I.O.U. warehouse in West Virginia on RED for the roulette wheel in Vegas. Break it now or make it whole for 100 years.

foxmuldar's picture

Don't worry about us old Farts collecting or soon to be collecting SS. Obamacare was invented to take care of us in a quick and easy manner. When we get any major illness, the death panels will render a verdict that we can't be treated and in a few days were gone. Isn't Obamcare wonderful? SS deficit problem solved. But now how will we solve the even bigger Obamacare deficit problem? Can we kill off the death panels to start tackling that problem? 

devo's picture

Stop corporate welfare. Forget SS, it's a blip and helps the elderly/disabled. Stop going after the wrong people.

Henry Hub's picture

Here's the economist James Galbraith's take on all this nonsense about "The Social Security Crisis":

Bob's picture

You know what his problem is?  He's clueless when it comes to shitting on the weak just because you can. 

Fucking clueless. 

He'll never get ahead. 

Bastiat's picture

Here's the solution:

1) pay JP Morgan $500 billion and give them all the "assets" in the SS Trust Fund in exchange for a derivative enhanced AAA annuity to replace each SS account.

2) JPM can then distribute $100 bln as bonuses and charge another $100 bln for program administration costs.

3) As needed (an with enabling legislation of course) JPM could reverse repo the SS IOUs to the FRB.  The Fed could simply invent the money to fund them.

3) Then, somewhere down the road JPM could declare the program on brink of default with dire consequences (see the Paulsen TARP playbook) and:

4) Get bailed out. 

Although this would be much less efficient than simply bailing out SS, it would be much more likely to work since the banksters get paid. 


ian807's picture

Free ride? I'm sorry, but who paid in most of the SS funds again? 20-somethings, or people in their 60s? Take a second and think. We'll wait for you to catch up.

Welfare? Again, who's been paying SS payroll taxes since they started working? So that was for what? I had some funny idea that this was for retirement to old people, mainly me.

So as far as all you 20-somethings are concerned, the ones on this board complaining because everything the previous two generations created won't be handed over to you, gratis, may I suggest you all take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.

Lednbrass's picture

You first, Sparky and I'm not a 20 something but a parent on the front end of Gen X.

Your lack of foresight, planning, and attention to the actions of politicans during your entire life do not constitute an obligation on my part or that of my son. You got scammed because you were too busy having a good ol' time to pay attention to what was happening in front of your eyes.

Stupidity and carelessness need to be painful, and there is no other option but pain here. They money you feel yourself entitled to does not exist and you need to come to terms with that. The only way to give you what you think you deserve is to devalue it severely.

southerncomfort's picture

Wow.  Looking at old and young at each other's throats really points out how the media/unelected elite can pit the masses "against" one another when technically they're in the same boat: NOT in the elite!  

devo's picture

That's what they want. It's the poor guys fault, it's the old guy's fault, etc. The right loves it...they pitch this rhetoric all day because people like Bruce eat it and regurgitate.

Not that I'm left. I'm a rational human, and if someone paid money into SS they have every right to receive it, and they should fight for what is owed, whether in currency or assets, and should understand people who want to dismantle the program have an agenda for doing so. "They don't have the money aargh!" I can hear it now. Really bad argument in a country with plentiful natural resources and assets. If the right would just argue for disassembling SS and having the govt pay back in assets I think everyone would be on board. Means testing, I'm sure almost everyone would be on board with that, too.

devo's picture

You say this in ever SS thread.

You need to come to terms with the fact that the masses who paid into the system do not and will not accept your answer just because you had foresight and don't want your son paying into it.

This is why the Republican Party/Libertartians are getting hammered. Nobody wants to hear that they're not entiteld to what they paid in. Like I said last time, give us one of the millions of empty houses on the market and call it even. To accept nothing? Not likely without bloodshed. Someone (Peter Schiff?) got into your head, and you're falling for it. Government wants citizens turning against citizens because it takes blame off govt.

Gargoyle's picture

While I must plead guilty as charged to Political Apathy in the 1st degree, I paid into SS for YEARS and I deserve (yes, deserve) my benefit far more than the fourth-generation welfare leeches who can't even spell "job" deserve their Obamaphone and EBT card that dispenses cash at casinos.

If there is pain to be felt, let it be felt by the truly unproductive.

topshelfstuff's picture

""""""Payroll tax receipts: $712.7B (+6.5%) =deficit of $46.7B,""""""""

There would be NO Deficit, there could be such a large Surplus that any Medicare deficit would be eliminated and still have Billions left over IF the Cap was removed.

I know The People are supposed to be kept unaware of this Cap, hence no mention in the MSM, but the fact is, you stop paying on all earnings above $110,000. That was the 2012 Cap. So you really have to ask, Why wasn't it, at least, Raised, especially since a larger growing slice of the Pie goes to this group. If the Cap had been $200,000 this year there wouldn't be a deficit. Is it really a problem. Some wonder why there's a Cap in the first place.

chubbar's picture

Ooh, ooh, I know this one (wildly waving hand). Straight from the head of SS admin (as I watched cspan when he testified), they don't increase the cap because the benefits are directly tied to contributions. I.E. (and this is a direct quote or paraphrase) if we get rid of the cap then we'd be paying millions in benefits to folks like Bill Gates. In other words, your benefits are directly tied to how much in earnings you made over the years (and contributed to SS fund, unlike probably what Gates actually contributes). People who are for raising the cap usually aren't also for raising the benefits, not unlike other folks who just want other folks money confiscated for their benefit (not saying this is the case with you).

Bruce Krasting's picture

Thank you. Fixing the problem by eliminating the cap does not solve the problem. It makes it bigger.

If the cap was eliminated AND the benefit formula was scrapped it would work. It would work on paper, but it would be the absolute end to SS. This step would take you right to the point where the program was welfare. Exactly what Roosevelt tried to avoid.

I would not be surprised if they played with this at some point. I think it is a non-starter in 2012 because of opposition by liberals.

Henry Hub's picture

Hey, I have an idea. Why don't we convert all social security holdings to private accounts that have to be held with the TBTF banks. So we will not longer have to worry. In stead of having our money held be the evil government, it will be safe and in good hands with the banksters. Keep the government out of it. Let the free enterprise solve the problem. Isn't crony capitalism wonderful.

Freddie's picture

There is no opt out.

I cannot wait until senior and babby boomer liberals have their SS cut or cancelled.  They voted for this twice with the mus*im.  F***  them.

The dream retirement plan with dog food and a special once a week treat of Spam. 



metaforge's picture

Where's my "opt out" button?

CH1's picture

All your life are belong to us!

KingTut's picture

I may be confused (my usual state of being), but I think the 2% payroll tax cut takes payroll taxes from 12% to 10%, which means the real income from payroll taxes was only $593B, with an additional loss of $118B, for a total loss of $163B.  I know this is not structural or permanent, but it's still real right now.

Bastiat's picture

I'll take this deal:  write me a check for every dollar I contributed to SS plus interest at the then prevailing treasury bond/note rate for the term beginning at the contribution and ending at the date the check is cut.  Fair enough? If you want to renege on the annuity, then it was a loan and should be repaid as such.

chubbar's picture

Hell, I'd even spot them the fucking interest payment. Just give me a lump sum and make it before the gold price starts reflecting the reality of the dollar.

Bastiat's picture

I'll spot them the interest payment if they stop manipulating PM prices.

KingTut's picture

When Senate Democrats, like Dick Durbin and Harry Reid say, “SS does not add a penny to our debt.” – they are lying.


They are spinning, actually.  The $16T debt includes $4.5T owed to SS from the surpluses that were squanderd.  So technically SS is just collecting money back that it already "paid in".  BS, I know but politicians are experts at walking the knife edge between spin and lies.

woggie's picture

the beast is on the gobble
and all that matters is we're all headed for it's belly

A Middle Child of History's picture

Hickory dickory dock
Woggie still posts the same schlock
On every article anew
What more should he do?

"Go slither back under your rock!"

Andy Lewis's picture

Whadda crocka chickenshit bullshit.

NeedtoSecede's picture

It may seem off-topic, but 1913 was a very bad year.

The beginning of the end...

Stuck on Zero's picture

Social Security is an intolerable government program costing hundreds of billions.  It will bankrupt America. 

On the other hand ...  the trillions for bankers is worth every penny.


solgundy's picture

F.U. Bruce...........

earnyermoney's picture

What's the matter Dean? LOL

AgShaman's picture

We need to create a program/system, whereby the slaves will be driven by fear to stay within the herd.

They will be so consumed with fear that they will even do our job for us....and chastise anyone who decides to stray from the herd and carve out an existence outside this system. Genius is getting the slaves to not only participate willingly, but to admonish others for not participating, and blather on like zombies rationalizing how they must be a part of the system since they've been paying into it for so many years. We won't tell them that this slush fund is always bankrupt, and it's capital is used for other unsavory things like imperialism and global domination. All that we need really is a catchy name to sell it to the nitwits that make up the slave herd.

"We shall call it 'Social Security' will be the perfect scam to keep the herd rounded up in their pens"

southerncomfort's picture

bravo.  this along with the unelecteds keeping masses at each others' throats is so eye opening.  

Bob's picture

Nice work.  What folks seem to be glossing over in their deep wisdom, however, is that it hasn't quite been stolen yet.

That's what is going to be settled now.  Pretending that it has already happened is neither accurate nor constructive. 

Except as a strategy for controlling the debate and its outcome, of course. 

viator's picture
Guaranteed Retirement Accounts (GRA, as mentioned in the Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class)

Participation in the program is mandatory except for workers participating in equivalent or better employer defined-benefit plans where contributions are at least 5%

The accounts are administered by the Social Security Administration and funds are managed by the Thrift Savings Plan or similar body.

Transformer's picture

5 years?  What difference does it make, then.  5 years and everything will be different!!

Bastiat's picture

Baby boomer free ride?  WTF?  All I've ever done is pay into it for 40 years. 

If you have $1m in principal and you draw down $10K more than your interst earnings, you should not have to borrow money--you sell investments.  In this case the "investments" are governement IOUs issued when Congress stole the revenues.  So the Treasury "contributions" to SS are more in the nature of redemptions of already issued obligations, or am I missing something?

This isn't about "boomers" getting a free ride, this about Congress getting a pass for looting the revnenues.

Bruce Krasting's picture

If you sent every one of them, past and present, off to jail, it would not change the outcome one bit.

The question is, "What are we going to do about it?" rather than, "Who is to blame".

Adrian Monk's picture

Doing something about it with the same LOSERS that stole the money! How do you think that will work out? I, myself , think it is time for a REAL solution....TERM LIMITS!

MachoMan's picture

Kind of, the other side of the argument is what did baby boomers (as the largest voting block) do to ensure that the money was safeguarded and the public trustees held accountable?  As it stands, it's vastly easier to simply saddle younger generations to pay than face up to decades worth of political apathy.

chubbar's picture

It's not apathy if the politicians don't give a shit about your input and ignore the voters, MM. What are you or your generation doing that is changing things? Why are the BB's held to a different standard than what is going on right now? There wasn't an internet 20+ years ago that would educate us as to what is going on like there is today. The asshats in charge are not slowing down on their fraud and are in fact accelerating the theft, all while you and your generation are on the case and watching. Now who are you going to blame? Let's face it, they are unaccountable and this infighting is probably a dream come true for them.

Freddie's picture

Many Baby Boomers and seniors voted for a mu*lim twice.  He is running drones to help Al Qeada because he is Al Qeada.  

The boomers and seniors deserve to get f***ed along with the young who voted for this.    However, the honroable opposition is not much opposition.  Yeah yeah - I know red team blue team.  Not really.  More like Islamic team and red team.

The plan for the mullah is to "die off' these older folks sooner than later.  Problem solved. 

Moron serfs brainwashed by TV and Hollywood.  People have no clue about how evil these people are.  They will find out soon enough.  I have no pity for them. It is going to be a real shock.