On the Social Security 2012 Report to Congress

Bruce Krasting's picture

The Social Security Trust Fund (SSTF) 2012 report to Congress is now out (link). It’s 242 pages and contains a great deal of information. I have reviewed a number of sections in the report that I consider to be key measures of SS’s health. Not one of those variables showed any improvement. Some highlights:


-The Net Present Value of the unfunded liabilities at SS is now a staggering $20.5 Trillion.  One year ago this was $17.9T ($2.6T increase - 15% YoY). This yardstick grew at more than double the rate of the entire national debt 12/31/10 = $14T, 12/31/11 = $15.2T, total increase = $1.2T). This deterioration is staring policy makers in the face. The burden that SS will put on future generations is growing exponentially.


-The “Drop Dead Date” where the SSTF is exhausted has been moved up three years to 2033. This is a number that the MSM will focus on. It is a bogus deadline. The SSTF must maintain at least one year’s worth of benefits. The year that TF assets will equal one year of payments will be ~2026. This means that anyone who is age 53 today can expect to get 75% of the value that a baby boomer will get. (Under current law, when the TF is exhausted, benefit payments must be cut.) Fourteen years is not a very long time for people to plan and adjust for what's coming. The Politicians will have to address this reality sooner versus later. It is already passed the time where it is unfair to those who will be affected.


-The Drop Dead Date for the Disability Fund has been changed from 2017 to 2016. This is important as the TF has confirmed that the next President will HAVE to bailout one component of SS. It is crucial to ask the candidates what they will do if elected. They better have an answer. When the debate on the future of Disability Insurance (DI) gets going, it will be marked with a sharp divide of opinions. It could easily be a factor in the election.


-The SSTF creates  Best, Base and Worst case scenarios for 2012 through 2021. The Base-case is for SS to run an $800B cash deficit for the period. The Worst-case analysis is for a $1.8 Trillion cash shortfall. I’m firmly convinced that the Worst-case is most likely.


-The critical assumptions used to develop SSTF’s assessment of the future include: i) CPI will average only 2% in years 2012 – 2015. From 2015 – 2021 inflation will average 2.5%. Utter hogwash. ii) Real GDP will average 3% a year for the next decade. There will be no recessions according to the TF. More hogwash. iii) The TF uses these estimates for Real GDP:

2012 – 2.6%
2013 – 2.9%
2014 – 3.5%
2015 – 4.0%
2016 – 3.8%

These results simply will not happen. Is the SSTF not aware that the USA will face the biggest cut backs in spending, and the largest increases in taxes in the country’s history,  eight months from today? iv) The TF uses the following estimates of ten-year interest rates:

2012 – 2.4%
2013 – 3.4%
2014 – 4.4%
2015 – 5.0%
2016 – 5.1%

These are important as the TF is sitting on $2.6T of IOU’s. The interest it earns on this surplus is critical to the short-term results. Possibly the TF is unaware that the Fed has promised to keep ZIRP in place until 2014. This interest rate outlook is based on the assumption that the economy will be zooming along without any interruptions. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I stick with my prior forecast for SS. The TF will “Top Out” in 2017 and will have a maximum surplus of $2.75T. That’s five-years earlier than the TF forecast in its report today. It is $1T light of what the TF says the Maximum TF balance will be. I’m please to report that the SSTF’s High Cost (Worst-case) scenario is now ahead of my own forecast. They have the TF topping out in just two years. The TF will not exceed $2.75T.

If anyone in D.C. wakes up to this reality, they would have to yell, “Fire.” Given that it’s an election year we probably won’t hear a peep.


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Escapeclaws's picture

The only way to "save" social security and medical care is to kill these programs altogether and re-route what would have been paid out by those programs to the TBTF banks so that they can increase their bonuses each year and thus attract the best talent to stimulate America's economy. We also need to double the number of military bases and launch spectacular new space weapons programs. We need deeper tax cuts for the top .1 % than are provided by the Bush tax cuts, to enable the tax savings to create a trickle down Laffer curve effect. We need to at least double the number of prisons to incarcerate the criminal classes and to beef up our various three letter national security agencies to keep us safe from those who are envious of our standard of living and our freedoms. These are just a few ideas to cut the waste represented by social security and medicare.

Tao 4 the Show's picture

Bruce - You talk about the Trust Fund, but my (limited) understanding is that said TF is entirely "promises to pay" from the U.S. govt. The ZIRP problem is one thing, but it would seem to me that the over riding issue is whether/how the U.S. can come up with the money to repay the loans from the TF. We are monetizing like crazy already and the bottom is falling out of the tax base. Seems likely that repaid dollars will not be worth much. Demographics tell the story. In buying power terms, any Social Security payments over the next years may amount to coffee money.

Am I missing something?



Bruce Krasting's picture

Coffee money? It will be more than that.But it will be much less than what the Boomers are getting/

How old are you? I'm 62, I will get a check for 2Gs a month when I'm 65. I will get that for 16 years. Total to me of $312. (Assumes I kick the bucket at 78).

Say you are 30 and work. You will get $3Gs a month when you are 65! But you will only get it at age 70. Since you will retire after the drop dead date, the benefits get cut by 25% (by current law) You will (statistically) live to be 79. You will get $243K.

Keep in mind that in 40 years that money you will get is going to be worth far less than it is today.

So if you're in your 30's you are paying a big price to finance my retirement. And you will get very little in return for that.

This is so unfair. I can't believe that workers under 45 are not marching in the streets.




Tao 4 the Show's picture

Thanks for the reply, Bruce. You mentioned part of my point - that inflation is a big factor here and payout for people in a few years will not mean much in buying power terms. The decline rate of buying power, or the inflation rate of money creation are not well factored in, IMO. There may be major dollar problems within a few short years.

blunderdog's picture

   workers under 45


But seriously...

Last time I remember marches on any streets, they turned out to be a joke.  The poe-leece had areas all roped off--you know, those special ZONES where "Free Speech" was permitted.  Most of the marchers were content to preach to the choir. 

We invaded Iraq, natch, because everyone in gummit knows that if the protesters are willing to ask permission to protest, they ain't gonna do a damn thing, anyway. 

To really drive the point home, they should have roped and branded some of the OWS'ers last summer. 

I suggest "EVIAN" across the forehead.  That way they're reminded every morning when they look in the mirror what believing in Americanism implies.

Big Ben's picture

With borrowing costs so low now, the politically smart thing is just to keep borrowing and spending. Most of the American public sees no problem with this. In a democracy what the people want, the people get.

The problem is that I suspect our current low borrowing costs are due to baby boomers in their peak earning years just before retirement shoveling money into bonds. They were burned by the dotcom bubble, they were burned by the housing bubble, and now they want 'safe' bonds.

As the boomers retire, they will switch from being net buyers of bonds to being net sellers. Which could cause interest rates to shoot up and make the government's financial problems much worse. So just at the time that the government will be pressed for money to pay for SS and Medicare, it will also be facing much larger interest payments on its debt (which will be enormous by then). So the boomers will end up also getting burned by the bond bubble, which I think will be the worst bubble of them all.

Hedgetard55's picture

Our record low interest rates are because boomers are buying bonds???



Have you ever heard of the FED?

Big Ben's picture

Check your facts. The Fed only owns around 10% of US debt. It just recently surpassed China. Not enough to account for the super-low interest rates that we are now experiencing.

Chump's picture

Total debt ownership is irrelevant when you're discussing current rates.  Do you think maybe the fact that the Fed bought over 60% of all Treasury offerings last year might have had a significant impact on rates?


Hedgetard55's picture

Lots of people are going to get screwed by this intergenerational Ponzi, and the longer the program is propped up the more people screwed and the more money stolen.


Book smart but common sense challenged people like Bruce are partially responsible for this through thweir unstinting support and rationalizations for this scam.

Bruce Krasting's picture

Unstinting support? I take that as an insult.

I have a page at ZH look me up. I have 50 articles on SS. All of them critical.


ConfederateH's picture

All of them critical if you consider nibbling at the edges critical.  I have never seen you stand up and say that FDR was a liar, a despot, a war monger, and almost as big a fascist as Lincoln.   SS was a sham that was little more than another nail driven into the coffin that contains the remains of Americans' freedom.  And that is why you get so little respect at ZH:  You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.


onlooker's picture


The Medicare and Social Security retirement system like the Welfare, food stamp, rent support, medical entitlement and the larger per person retirement systems of Government retirees is not sustainable.


Remember the baby boom that started post 1946 is headed toward the entrance door and some are already in the system.


Due to the current Depression the retired person savings and value of the home are dramatically reduced and the children rather than being able to assist the old parents are living at home with no jobs, becoming a National liability rather than asset.


Most ZH readers know that the worst may be ahead of us. There is no one plan that fits every need, but planning for the worst and hoping for the best may be a good idea. I am not sure the “financial advisors/ stock brokers” have a good track record at this point to blindly follow their advice. With the exceptions of very specialized College degrees, higher education might be better put off for the future than a non-producing paper bought with borrowed money or precious savings. Reduced spending is wise.


Take care of your health and get whatever expensive medical needs (hip replacement etc.) done now.


The age of “The Golden Years retirement” is over. For those that are retired, the time has come for them to become involved, to join to save this Nation, not for the old but for our children and grandchildren.


The time has come for the old to stop bitching and start fighting for those they love and care for. The Government has failed, and we who should have controlled the Government have failed. The time has come to make things right.

blunderdog's picture

    The Medicare and Social Security retirement system like the Welfare, food stamp, rent support, medical entitlement and the larger per person retirement systems of Government retirees is not sustainable.

You left out a biggie.  Even if you eliminate everything you listed there, the whole "money as debt"/"debt equals money" system is unsustainable.

Constructing the entire modern infrastructure of civilization out of oil is unsustainable.

Burning coal to power electrical appliances is unsustainable.

It's a really long list, if you think about it a bit.

Transformer's picture

Long before 12-14 years has come to pass, the current government will have ceased to function.  It is not sustainable for more than even a a few years, without radical changes.

blunderdog's picture

I agree the FedGov is on the way out, but I'm not convinced it's going to happen nearly that quickly.

As a nation-state, our population can survive 20-30 years of gradually reduced standards of living, and we don't really know how much closer to the mean we'll get before the people demand a complete rework of the system.

Zero Govt's picture

Brucie, you're the same bloke that was signing off with glee a tripling in disability benefits last week yes?

Bruce Krasting's picture

Lousy spin ZG, and you know it. There was no tripling of anything. So that is just fluff on your part.


About 15% of disabilities go to people (or their children) who are very ill. Most have conditions they will die from. It is called Compassionate Allowances. This has nothing to do with people who make up medical conditions with lawyers to gin the system. These are very sick people.


My proposal was to have the top 5% pay for this. It comes to $20b a year. Not a big deal to an income group that earns over $3Trillion a year.

I stand on this proposal. Sorry you're not happy with it, but then, you're not happy with anything, are you?

Zero Govt's picture

Brucie, how can it be "spin" when it was your numbers that showed a tripling of the benefits, which you approved of so much you wanted "more, more, more" of other peoples money???

Facts are facts mate, they were your figures dipshit, you own them

I see you're still waving your moral high-horse charity banner around as 'justifcation' for theiving other peoples money to piss away on your favourite charitable cause. 3 questions arise:

1. who the fuck do you think you are?

2. where is Govt enterprise better than private at solutions to social problems, you know people being self-sufficient and sorting their own problems out?

3. why not set-up your own chairty and give people a free choice to contribute rather than just thieve others hard-earned?

Regards me not being happy at anything, i'm ok actually mate, but there's alot going on in the world that's pretty darn crap... people (scum?) playing various moral cards in order to thieve other peoples money is one of those social diseases that makes me very pissed off and i'd like to see eradicated (one arsehole at a time)

Bruce Krasting's picture

1. who the fuck do you think you are?

I'm a guy who thinks that the folks at the top of the pile should be chipping in extra to help those who have life threatening illnesses. Look at the link in that article and tell me which disease should not be treated compassionately?

There are years that I'm in the tax bracket that would get hit with this. If I make about $500k, then I should be very happy to throw in another 1% of my income to pay for kids with cancer.

Are you a top 1%er? Top 5%er? If not, shut up. You're not paying for this. I am.


2. where is Govt enterprise better than private at solutions to social
problems, you know people being self-sufficient and sorting their own
problems out?


The government fucks up everything, I agree. That does not change the fact that there is a small portion of people who actually do need help. What kind of society would you like? A four-year old get lymphoma and the parents have no insurance? What's your plan? Euthanize the kid?


3. why not set-up your own chairty and give people a free choice to contribute rather than just thieve others hard-earned?


I do give money to charity. But charity does not fill this bucket. Like I said, If you're a 5%er, then you can gripe about my plan, but until you are you are, you ought to look at it in the proper light. I'm not taking anything from the 95%. If any thing, I'm trying to level the field a bit.


If you are a top 5%er, then you should be embarrassed by your position. It's greedy.








ConfederateH's picture

"I'm a guy who thinks that the folks at the top of the pile should be chipping in extra to help those who have life threatening illnesses."

You are a guy who thinks that more government theft is the solution to the failure of past government theft to fix anything.  Bruce, you are no better than a corporatist and fascist shill.  Bravo. Keep up the good work, Barack would be proud.

Zero Govt's picture

Ah, you think you're Warren Buffet do you Brucie?

Noboy should be "chipping in extra" to anything without their explicit consent, got it? It's their money, not yours, mind your own business and get your thieving hands and morally obnoxious self-rightesnous off the landscape of humanity mate

Nobody disagrees with "compassion" what i disagree with is putting it through the most incompetent organisation in human history, Govt, to 'solve' the issue. It just never ever works

as you know with Govt regulation of the financial industry which is supposed to solve fraud, insolvency, criminality the sham system just made matters worse... and it's contunuing that rotten clown act with every social and welfare system too, all the way to healthcare

and then we have the already grotesque problem of Govt taxing everything that moves, but that's never enough is it? We have an equal amount being raised by debt issuance.. but you want "more, more, more" of the debt-spending disease that is Govt 

the hole not big enough for you Bruce, want it a bit deeper?

Regards "a four-year old with lymphoma" it's the parents responsibility, not anyone elses. So they haven't got health insurance. all lions, whale sharks and insects haven't got it either. Sort yourself out, the Govt will just make it worse and cost the earth

"If any thing, I'm trying to level the field a bit."

You're a socialist. Has socialism "levelled the field" or does it level the entire fuking economy?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It's called socialism and communism. Thinking you make society richer by stealing what isn't yours to take and redistributing it... it's never worked in history, in fact it's the biggest disaster to befall any nation

You're not a charity worker and your thoughts are not charitable.. they're just theft dressed in a nursey outfit, a mugging in fancy dress


Don Levit's picture

If the trust fund was a real store of wealth, we would not be running any cash flow deficits.

The funding of these deficits is the same way we pay all government expenses, including Medicaid:  by drawing on the Treasury's general fund.

Whether we draw on the Treasury to redeem interest and eventually principal on the bonds, or we are paying for battleships the dynamics is the same  -  new general revenues must be raised.

The trust fund merely notes what Soicial Security can withdraw without an appropriation.  Like all pay-as-you-go expenses, it doesn't fund the appropriation via liquidating pre-paid investments, as a regular retirement fund would do.

Whether the trust fund is exhausted is not the key issue.  It is when these cash deficits occur, as have already started. The solution is the same  -  draw on the Treasury's general fund to make up for the cash shortfall.

Don Levit

Hedgetard55's picture



This has been pointed out to Bruce many times in his SS posts but it has never penetrated his mind.

Bruce Krasting's picture

In nearly every article I write about SS I make the distinction between what is cash and what is paper. All of my focus is on cash. So This thought penetrated my mind about five years ago.

We have a fucked up system. Yes, it uses phoney trust fund accounting. And yes these "drop dead" dates are really silly in the end. But this is the system we have. 98% of the people, including the deep thinkers in DC, believe in the TF.

So I try to look at it from their perspective as well as the cash profile. Legislation to change SS will come when the TF is going into the depletion phase. It will not come because there is a cash flow deficit.

Google Social Security and then hit News. You will see dozens of articles in papers. They all say the same thing.I'm trying to write about the topic in the way that it generally understood. 


TF to be Exhausted Three Years Early - Now 2033




ConfederateH's picture

"We have a fucked up system. Yes, it uses phoney trust fund accounting."

Then why do you insist on continuing the charade that the government is in anyway a part of the solution?  When will you grow up and accept that the government is composed of the lowest scum on the planet who are working with the next 2 lowest scum layers (lawyers and corporatists) to rob the rest of us of all our wealth and all our freedom?  (oh, I know, you went to school with all that scum and still have many friends and "contacts who survive only by propagating the fecal matter).

Bruce, get a life already.  The solution can only be found through ending this disgusting sham economy which you insist on not only participating in, but often by blogging in support of.

RagnarDanneskjold's picture

Isn't this all a fiction? The SS surplus is spent in the general budget. SS surplus peaked (it was going to peak even without the financial crisis) and is gone, that means every year, other spending must be cut in order to offset spending increases for SS. Even without the financial crisis, the deficit would be growing uncontrollably unless there were offsetting spending cuts. Doomsday is here, right now.

TeresaE's picture

+100 for the reality check Ragnar

The "reserve" is all IOUs (thanks Clinton!  Good job protecting that and balancing your fake budgets!).

IOUs that have to be borrowed/printed /paid for in devalued dollars.

These promises will never be kept.

Hedgetard55's picture



Reality hasn't penetrated Krasting's mind yet, unfortunately.

Hannibal's picture

Just work for the military (industrial complex) they get lot of money, unlimited blank checks!

Hannibal's picture

Just (little symbols) numbers on a computer screen.

Carbine's picture

The beat goes on...... and on, and on.  We will not face our problems until a huge crisis hits.  Then a mediocre solution will be crammed down our throats as an emergency measure.

Stackers's picture

" We can guarantee cash benefits as far out and what ever size you like. But we can not guarantee their purchasing power"

Greenspan 2005




They WILL print. Got gold ?

Yancey Ward's picture

I hate to say it, but this will be true of the IRAs and 401Ks- they will not be there.  At some point in the next 10 years, they will "safeguarded" by being invested 100% in long term government debt.

viahj's picture

so, they are going to dispose of the entire equity market then?  what effect will that have?  trillions of stock "paper wealth" will evaporate, most businesses would then go bankrupt, all pensions would evaporate.  wouldn't that be Armageddon, as the people will certainly escalate the revolt.

TeresaE's picture

My fear too Yancey.

They will strip the people that made private withholdings to pay for those that 1-are on the government pension and 2-everyone else in line at the trough.

Between that and both the upcoming reset on the market (timing unknown) AND the major tax hit they will take after next year, I'm really, really, considering cashing out while the cashing is good, the taxes lower and the bs still flowing.


lolmao500's picture

Fact is, medicare is bankrupt right here and now. Just look at the money flow...

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Without real market-based reform of the American health care system, Medicare will never br fixed.  But instead we get Obama-care.  What does that tell you?

Bicycle Repairman's picture

A couple of things.  If you believe that FED is going to print away problems, then you should expect that this is how SS will be handled. 

"The “Drop Dead Date” where the SSTF is exhausted has been moved up three years to 2033. ..... Under current law, when the TF is exhausted, benefit payments must be cut."

Sounds ominous, except when you consider that prior to the creation of the bogus trust fund, SS was funded every year.  That's all that is projected to happen in 2033.  As for "current law", LOL, how many times has the law has been obliterated during this current economic crisis?  Let me know when Corzine's trial date is.

Lastly, I am sure that the 2012 report assumes that the boomers will retire at the same age as previous generations.  This will not be the case.  Many boomers are in no position to retire on SS.  They will keep working and not only will they not receive benefits, they will keep contributing.

As for the disability fund, eligibility must be tightened.  But eligibility has moved in the opposite direction.  What does that tell you?  Medicare is a reflection of our bankrupt health care system, which Obama-care will only make worse.

crzyhun's picture

Sad! Very sad that this is the what we/I have been screaming about since the 90's. Individually you better have a Plan B!

Dermasolarapaterraphatrima's picture


Florida Man Charged With Felony for Allegedly Stealing $1 Cup of Soda From McDonald's

A Florida man was arrested and held on $6,500 bond after police in Collier County said he left a McDonald's without paying for a cup of soda valued at $1.

Mark Abaire, 52, had apparently asked staff at the Naples restaurant for a courtesy cup of water, but instead he allegedly filled the cup with soda from the soda fountain and sat outside of the restaurant, according to a story in the Naples Daily News .


Who says our justice system doesn't work? See, they caught him! However, I do think they 'supersized' his penalty.

DaveyJones's picture

he was also charged with" disorderly intoxication." I guess members of congress have an exemption.

Jim B's picture

Good thing Jon Corzine didn't steal a coke! He only stole 1.2B



DonutBoy's picture

That's "The Honorable" Jon Corzine to you peasant

Commander Cody's picture

Clearly, it is a much greater crime to steal a little from a bank than it is for a bank to steal a lot from anyone.

overmedicatedundersexed's picture

created the FED then Income tax then the progressives pushed thru SS and medicare/medicaid-fanny mae and freddy to aid poor for housing- bush added rx drugs w part D all to help the citizens who never saved for themselves but who could vote.

full employment in DC thus assured..economic anemia treated by taxing even more causing more economic anemia

the ss will send you checks well past Bruces date- it is just what will the checks buy ask bruce about solyndra and he's all for it you know bruce central planning at it's best..read what he writes but beware the closet progressive he is.

Crispy's picture

yet we are forced by the point of a gun to submit and contribute to a broken system....fuck the state, the state equals violence always and in every way (A)

Woodyg's picture

Yea lets invest all our hard earned money with the banksters!

Brilliant plan!

The moneybwould have simply been stolen faster....

Let's admit it - thebpredators control the corporations which in turn have captured the guv to do their bidding.....

Simply destroying a program that worked for 80 years because some corporate thief bought off a kleptocratic politician sounds like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Cut the heart from the bastards by Ending the Federal Reserve - cut off their free money, hang the top 100 banksters and hedge fund managers and it'd be a good start....

TeresaE's picture

While I wholeheartedly agree with your Federal Reserve comments, I feel compelled to mention that SS has NEVER worked!  Government budgets are complete farces that pretend oncoming responsibilities are not today's budgetary problems by ALWAYS showing future liabilities at less than actual known costs and tax revenues always shown higher (which is how they have fooled people into believing the doomed-from-the-start system could EVER be solvent) looks good on paper, and in headlines, but doesn't work if you sit down and plug in real world criteria.

Here are a couple things people seem to miss about "retirements" and social security.

1.  SS was created to ONLY help the poorest, of the poor, in the midst of the Great Depression.  Those that, through little to no fault of their own (like a hub dropping dead and wives not even being able to read or write to get jobs), find themselves old, infirmed and destitute.  The age was originally set BEYOND the average death date.  Figure it out, they KNEW that a full blown retirement was not sustainable.   See Roosevelt, 1935, social security, here's a link http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=68

2.  Job provided savings (retirement) and health insurance were NOT common in ANY industry prior to the labor shortages and wage controls during and after WWII.  It was expected that everyone needed to take care of their own lives, right up until the day they left it.  The factories couldn't get workers (with all the youngish men in Europe or the South Pacific), so they hired women.  Then they couldn't pay the good workers more, or entice them to different jobs, because of wage controls issued by Washington.  So they started "paying" them with benefits.  Read lots about industry, rationing and labor during WWII.  Biographies of auto barons, and industry titans too.

3. This isn't the first time things have gotten dire concerning retirements and the like.  The country went through this is the 80s, and if not for the Roaring 90s, dotcom & Y2K full employment, we would have been addressing this stuff 15 years ago. 

And finally, #4, mathematically speaking it is FISCALLY impossible to pay people to contribute NOTHING for MORE years than they have contributed.  The only way it is possible would be to double your profit margins every 15 years.  Only a non-business minded person can think that that is possible.  In order to work the cost of everything you need and use would have to continuously increase PAST the point of both current pay/workers and the ever growing non-worker entitlements.

All you have to do is follow the progression of the tax rates to see that it truly, never, "worked." 

Just thought I've give you some things to think about/research on your own.  The whole system is unsustainable.  Has been from the moment President Johnson turned it into a retirement account and allowed the banks to make money on it.  Was nearly there from the very inception in 1935.

Fiat on.