CBO on SS - Another 29' Crash?

Bruce Krasting's picture


The Congressional Budget Office is out with its annual review of Social Security. It's a long report - here's all you need to know:




This result is no surprise. SS's finances deteriorate every year. What I found interesting is the extent of the deterioration. 2013 was the best year since 2008 for the broad economy. We had fairly steady growth in the economy, and the job market improved significantly. But the red ink at SS rose very rapidly.

In 2012 a 'fix' for SS would have required an immediate and permanent tax increase of 1.95%. A year later the cost of the fix has risen to 3.36%. That's a 70% deterioration in twelve months. To right the SS ship a payroll tax increase equal to $180B would be required for 2014, and that higher tax rate would have to be sustained forever. A tax increase of this magnitude would sink the economy into a recession that the country would struggle to get out of.

The deteriorating outlook, and another year of inaction, has brought the blow-up date for SS a bit closer to today. CBO has an interesting time line for when this might happen:


In CBO’s simulations, in which most of the key demographic and economic factors in the analysis were varied on the basis of historical patterns, the trust fund ratio falls to zero in 2029


2029? One hundred years after the last crash and depression we will face a self imposed crisis. When the Trust Fund ratio falls to zero current law requires that all benefits are cut across-the-board by 25%. As it is set up today, there is a huge cliff that the economy will fall over - and that cliff is now just fifteen years away. A chart of the cliff:




When the Trust Fund is running dry in 29' SS will be paying out at a rate equal to 6% of GDP. The 25% drop in benefits would translate into an immediate (and permanent) drop in consumption of 1.5% of GDP. That's a pretty steep cliff to go over.


So we are fifteen years away from a real problem, and no one is doing anything about it. Nothing will be done in 2014 as it is an election year. I doubt that any real fixes to SS will be made until after Obama is out of the White House. The result of inaction will be that the cost of the fix rises. By 2017 it will be damn near impossible to stabilize the system in the then remaining years before the cliff is hit.


Social Security has morphed into an interesting economic stimulus that I don't believe anyone has focused on. For 2013 the amount of the hidden stimulus is $87B (0.5% of GDP) but the size of the annual boost is going to grow very quickly over the remainder of this decade. In the final year before the blow-up it grows to $550B (1.4% of GDP)


In 2013 SS will collect $727B in payroll taxes and pay out $816B in benefits (~$90B difference). Both the taxes and the benefits have a 1-1 consequence on consumer spending. The fact that SS is no longer pay-go on a cash basis means that it has to dip into the Trust Fund to fund the difference. When the TF redeems its IOUs, it forces the Treasury to issue more Debt to the Public (dollar for dollar increase). But Total Debt remains the same, and there is no consequence of this form of deficit spending on the Budget (intergovernmental transfers are not included in the deficit calculation).

A few charts on the Take-or-Pay based on numbers from the 2013 Social Security report to congress:


subsidy in dollars_edited-1

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 6.37.25 AM



These are big numbers. If there are no adjustments to SS this hidden stimulus will have a significant consequence. In the years just prior to the 2029 crash the stimulus will be a substantial portion of the YoY GDP grow. But then the music just stops - from one year to the next there will be a huge contraction as the stealth deficit spending ends and benefits are cut by 25%.


Yes, all of these things are still far into the future. And yes, the thought of eliminating the hiding stimulus anytime soon is not politically (or economically) feasible. But the reality is that the SS Cliff is surely going to be realized in the now foreseeable future. D.C. knows that the future is now on a glide path into the side of a mountain, but it 'feels so good' to do nothing, that nothing will be done. The history books will not look kindly on this neglect.






Note: Elizabeth Warren (D -Mass) has been leading a liberal/progressive debate on expanding SS. She wants to increase payouts (a step that would move 2029 to 2025). When the history books do write about this, they will point to the likes of Warren, and say that she led the charge to a disaster. I don't think these people have a clue what SS is doing, and what will surely happen in the relatively near future.




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el Gallinazo's picture

I give SS less than two years as we know it, and this as a geezer getting by on it in modest comfort in southern Mexico.  The federal government is broke and once it runs its controlled demolition on people's savings accounts, the pension funds both public and private, IRA's, and the 401(k)'s, they will see little point in continuing it.  In my opinion, they will just turn off the lights and gasoline, retreat to their DUMB's,  and allow the people who have survived all the toxic shit they are throwing at us (Fukushima, Corexit in the Gulf, chemtrails, vaccines, fluoride, SSRI's, "smart"meters, etc.) to slaughter each other.  Then they plan to come up and mop up the rest.  Best way to thwart their plans is to cooperate with your neighbors for mutual survival.

The Final Straw's picture

I've never said this before, but the time has come. If I'm paying for your movie and dinner, I'll need a little something in return.

natty light's picture

29' crash? You mean some retiree's Class A takes out the clearance sign at the RV park entrance?

q99x2's picture

Don't worry we will be ok. The DHS is here to protect us.

Big Ben's picture

The history books will not look kindly on this neglect.

That depends on who writes the history books. Writers have a way of just focusing on the things they want to and ignoring anything else.

For example, reading Bruce's posts you would get the impression that if we just socked it to the rich by imposing a means test on SS, all of the US government''s entitlement problems would magically be solved. Bruce never bothers to point out that Medicare is an even bigger problem.

dexter_morgan's picture

I thought it wa imperative we elect fauxcohontas in order to clean up the corruption on wall street.......how the fuck is that going? What an irritating beatch she is............

dexter_morgan's picture

We always hear shit about SS running out of money despite it's a program people pay in to. When does welfare run out of money? never hear anyone talking about that date.

natty light's picture

Supposedly SSDI disability is to run out much sooner than SS.

Bruce Krasting's picture

The DI fund goes turtle in 2016. We've got 24 months before the lights go out.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

Dear Bruce,

In what possible universe is the US dollar still the reserve currency in 2029?  Think that might be a more pressing matter for you boomer retirees?  What happens when your USD denominated "assets" are reset to their true value?

Bruce Krasting's picture

I would worry abut the dollar if there were an alternative that was better. But what is the dollar going to crash against? The Yen? Not likely. The Euro? I don't see that. The RMB? China would never let it happen? The Pound? Not likely. The Swiss Franc? They have bastardized their currency with a peg.

Ghordius's picture

Bruce, you have noted that the CHF is not the only currency that is "flooring" itself to a bigger one, don't you?

having said that, I tend to agree. I still put the chances of a USD hyperinflation at 5%. yet the chance is there

Missiondweller's picture

Maybe they'll pay our SS in Yuan/Renminmbi. ;-)

jomama's picture


and the job market improved significantly.


uhh, which sector are you talking about?  mine (biotech) was the dryest since 2008.  are we going off of the BLS numbers?  haha.

lindaamick's picture

All I can say is that once I got to a point in my career where I paid out SS by Sept or Oct, I would forget by Jan that I was going to be taking a pay cut as somehow I had adjusted my spending upwards in those few fall months.

There was some pain every year reeling my spending in.   I recall thinking It would have been better to pay it all year long and stay on budget.

Raising the limit or eliminating it should be some part of a solution.  It won't hurt a bit.

Bob Sacamano's picture

You and those who want to eliminate the limit can contribute all year now if you like (but you won't).  Bonus - any contributions above the limit will be a charitable tax deduction.  Everyone needs to put their money where there mouth is.   

Disenchanted's picture

"and the job market improved significantly."

Yeah, right...

besnook's picture

the solution is simple but politically impossible now. forget about the social security public philosophy. it will exist in 15 years and something will be done. who knows what. the '84 agreement was great at the time but i think they will have to tax the rich to save the system and they might do it.

dunce's picture

We will always have the poor, but for most of history there have been very few rich. Universal poverty is historically very common. Tax what rich??  Socialism kills the goose that lays the golden eggs by design. A slow death is still death.

MeBizarro's picture

Bruce - Why do you have such a hard on for SSI and its projected shortfall?  '29 may as well be '59 in DC.  You largely ignore the SSI disability costs which are a much bigger and more pressing problem for SSI payments and the overall retirement healthcare costs which are really going to cannabalize the federal budget by decade end.

walküre's picture

social security.... pensions... Detroit.. Camden.. any lib town California

2029 is lightyears away in the realm of pensions. short of finding a capacity to travel the speed of light, we will not make it until 2029 unless currencies in the West where pensions matter are devalued massively.

they can save the currency or they can save your pensions. they cannot save both in a negative growth future. who is going to fund the liabilities? Bangladeshis working for $2 a week?

the squirming is just beginning and I find it exciting to watch when the boomers' delusion of a lifetime pension implodes. stupid boomers.

it's a race to the bottom and pension's ponzis aren't designed to make it through a massive bout of asset deflation. the ponzi masters know it which is why they will chose the other option. print to cover until the money is worthless and less and less.

Accounting101's picture

Social Security never was nor ever will be a pension system. Current workers are taxed to provide benefits to current retirees. That has always been the case.

walküre's picture

Let's call it retirement income.

Some form of renumeration for the day that you stop working until you kick the bucket coming from a fund in which you've paid into over 40 years. Said fund was drained and is being drained and your only hope is that the coming contributors will keep funding for your retirement in spite of a coming global depression.

Nevermind that incomes and labor participation in the current economy are shrinking. Top it off with a growing number of boomers seeking retirement coming online.

Fucking fantastic! Icing on the cake are muni employees retiring with full benefits and working part time at a different department at the same muni. Seen it all.

Slow motion train wreck gradually picking up speed as we hit a nuclear bomb proof concrete wall.

jomama's picture

any 'lib' town in california?  where did you pull that one from?  


try again.  it's the conservative munis with the problems. 

dexter_morgan's picture

LO fucking L - yeah Detroit, Chicago, etc., you mean THOSE conservative muni's? LOLOLOL

Haloween1's picture

Walkure - Finally a comment on zerohedge that has some meat behind it.  Much better than the usual "Gold Bitchez" tripe. 

kevinearick's picture

it's that 13th check thing, again...

rp1's picture

Are you telling me people worked all their lives and you're just going to leave them to die?  The Fed is printing 85 billion dollars per month out of thin air.  Why shouldn't old people get that money instead of Wall Street frauds?  Many of them are honest people.

the0ther's picture

This is the correct answer. 

RKDS's picture

Because those same douchenozzles spend all day insulting the work ethic of generations that follow them while idolizing the "productivity" of thieves on Wall Street, that's why.  The only old people that matter to me are family and the rest can go play in traffic for all I care.

no more banksters's picture

"When money start to spread in the society "above acceptable limits", we create financial crises to take them back. We dictate governments to take measures and apply austerity policies directing money back to us. We keep money valuable to everyone and secure our profits."


GeezerGeek's picture

I'll agree with Bruce that SS is unsustainable. I've been saying that since I started working and learned about the system, and now that I'm retired I still feel that way. I must question his equating SS benefits to a stealth subsidy, however. I consider any benefits I receive as repayment for unjustified taxation of my previous productive efforts. Perhaps once I've regained everything taken from me - and that includes the employer matching contribution - then I might consider it a subsidy. Like EBT is a subsidy, like unemployment is a subsidy, like SS disability is a subsidy, etc. That date, however, is eight or nine years in the future at current rates. Until then, I'm not at all ashamed to be 'getting mine' back, however unjust that might be to my son's and future generations.

SS as a system sucks. It should have shrivelled up and died long ago, but politics prevented anyone - even Reagan - from doing that. Such is life under the sun. 

the grateful unemployed's picture

thats like saying the moon is unsustainable because it hangs there with no visible means of support. the problem is how are we going to handle the problem, the Bush solution is to privatize the assets (which many agree don't really exist, but when that did that ever stop Wall Street) and the Bush Obama Bernanke policy bandwagon has demonstrated they can control the stock market (at least for a little while) and protect your retirement savings, ergo 401K money you and your employer contribute. there has to be someway to consolidate all the pension funds and SSN into one big leveraged Wall Street party, with DOW 20000 just the start. bottom line is USG spends $2 for every $1 they collect in revenue, how do they do it? and can they do it so me and mine can get a piece of the pie. privatize SSN and raise the minimum wage to $20 for starters, (and take a bigger bite out of the payroll deduction, increase contributions to the system)and watch this rocket head for the moon.

MeBizarro's picture

Why in God's name would you privatize SSI and let the WS shitbags potentially skim off tens of billions in fees and costs annually?  There are plenty of issues with SSI but Bush's privatization plan was a naked power grab to rob the public piggy bank for its last nickels and dimes and handling them to WS.

There are two areas that WS is dying to get their hands on - one is access to the SSI funds (even if it is quite limited initially) and primary public education dollars.  One of the most depressing conversations I have ever had was next to an SVP from Apollo Group on a flight from SF to Boston about how much Apollo could grow only if we had widespread voucher programs & how rich it would make him.  

the grateful unemployed's picture

it really doesn't matter what you and i want, it's what they're doing. the only possible solution to washington is to pass a national voter initiative law, and let the public vote directly on proposed legislation. secondly nothing passes into law without 2/3s vote. other than that their bipartisan policy will proceed along predictable lines, without much difference between bush and obama medicare D or ACA, iran or afghanistan, switch grass or electric cars, the possibility of breaking out of this runaway policy train is remote, so know what they're doing and if enough people make enough noise maybe some of it can be reversed or avoided. right now the corporate government alliance is full steam ahead, and rand paul would be the perfect, repeat PERFECT one to finish that thought.

Dr. Sandi's picture

I don't want to VOTE on legislation. What a waste of time.

I want to WRITE legislation the way the big kids do.

F em all but 6's picture

My God, the ignorance. There is NO SS Trust fund period. The TAX on your wages. All of them. SS, medicare, medicade, ect are all EXCISE TAXES that can be spent ANY way Congress wants them to be spent. And they have spent them. ALL OF IT. THEY ARE FOR REVENUE PURPOSES PERIOD. This includes the so called INCOME TAX as it applies to the Wage. Its an EXCISE or PRIVILEGE TAX. It is, as a matter of law, a SURCHARGE on the PRIVILEGE. ALL of those taxes are INDIRECT that use the wage as a unit of measurement to calculate the indirect tax.

WTF. SS is the key to EVERYTHING. Without it, State and federal taxes indirectly applied to your wage CAN NOT EXIST and the courts would strike them down without hesitation. The fed will never trash the SS ACT or the taxes authorized under its umbrella. To do so would be akin the suicide. So taxes will be raised and benefits cut to the bone. Borrowing will increase and 85Billion/month will not be enough. This ponzi scheme IS the end game. The whole fucking train has already been driven off the cliff. The more we borrow in an attempt to delay that which is mathematically impossible to avoid, the higher the cliff and the more speed this train will aquire before it hits the granite floor. And when it does, the "protected classess" feasting upon the public treasury will go into full blown retard riot mode when the welfare and food stamps no longer exist...or are paid out in a currency that has no value.

Oh, and as for raising taxes to support this fiasco. YOU waived rights of CONTRACT and PROPERTY in exchange for what the courts of law and equity would classify as extraordinary protections paid for with money from the public treasury. The TAX on that PRIVILEGE places an absolute POLITICAL QUESTION upon the courts therefore the EXCISE tied to the WAGE can equal 100% of what you earn and the courts are powerless to prevent it. So what are you or your children going to do when the tax burden gets so high that you can no longer sustain yourself?? Peaceably sit under the 3rd avenue bridge and strarve to death? Unlikely.

Gold, silver, lead. Food stash and water filters. Stock up on critcal medicines. Those that think Civil war can be avoided through reason and cooperation are deluded.The human animal is a self centered pig and the absolute worst aspects of human nature will once again, become self evident. Amerika will burn, and the fed knows it.

MeBizarro's picture

Civil War with who exactly?  Yeah the system is breaking down but you sound like a ranting crazy person on the borderline of a breakdown. 

Tall Tom's picture

Civil War will happen. The Free Shit Army will demonize whomever they perceive to be the oppressors. Terrorism is just a response to PERCEIVED oppression.  The oppression does not even have to be Real or Valid.


I am certain that the target list will include the uberwealthy, the Government, the Bankers, the wealthy Gated Communities***, Oil Refineries, Power Plants, Gas Stations, Transportation (Ground and Air) and the list is endless in scope and volume. 


If the price of Gas increases to where the Free Shit Army cannot afford it then the Oil Tank Farms, Refineries, and the Pipelines become the target. That will end up bankrupting the Oil Industry. Of course that will also lead to Mass Starvation as Food Companies will be unable to transport their vital products. 


If the people lose their Housing, en masse, then the Banks become targets. Arson of empty homes will become the new fad.


It will be waged against anyone that they perceive to be oppressing them, whether or not their Observations have any validity.


But perhaps you have your head stuck way too far into the Governments Rectal Cavity to see any of this reality developing.


Bombs are just too damned easy to construct. Who needs a fucking gun when Bombs are in abundance?


You are under the delusion of the "Normalcy Bias" and have not been around the unwashed masses. So you underestimate them. They are a lot more PRACTICAL than you might be inclined to think.


Does the Janitor know NOT to mix Ammonia and Bleach? What if he does that "accidentaly" in the Air Conditioning or Heating System of a Courthouse? Can he Chlorine Gas the building? Yes Green Gas flowing from an Air Conditioning or Heating vent in a courtroom might be an indicator that it may be a very good time to vacate the premises.


Or perhaps a dark Movie Theater is probably the best place to do that. Go buy the crap at Wal~Mart, in the Mall, and then go buy a ticket for a Movie.


Yes they are "Underemployed". That does not mean that they do not know how to make Bombs. They are "Survivors". The pencil pushers and paper shufflers will not be able to affect a PRACTICAL DEFENSE against them. They outnumber you and have PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE in the Real and Dirty World.


If you place your faith in Government, then guess what? Your Faith is misguided.


As for me...I am doing my part in educating them how to make Bombs, how to generate Poison Gases, how to do deadly things, as a DIRECT RESPONSE to the Government's moves for Gun Control. Now I am not suggesting that anyone do this. But they will be ready to do it if they WANT and it proves necessary.


So fuck you, MeBizzaro. Enjoy your hell.


***Whomever dreamed about the "Gated Community", the "Gated Kill Zone", must have been high in that they thought that it would keep the hordes of unwashed masses out. (It will.) They did not understand that with a limited access there would be a limited escape route. It serves to trap the wealthy within. Explosive Missiles, Mortars, and Bullets fly over walls. All one has to dio is guard the gate, set fire to it with a burned out car, and let no one come out alive.

hound dog vigilante's picture

doesn't sound crazy at all... those w/ real assets (the means to provide food/shelter/defense) vs. those w/ nothing(debt).  this is exactly where we are headed.  w/o sound money, the charade of our current status quo will evaporate and then it's every man for himself, and governments are powerless to stop it.

i fully expect solvent states to seceed in an attempt to defend themselves from the now inevitable currency/social implosion.  if you don't see this coming at this point then you are looking at all the wrong signs, or you are not looking at all.

just as banks are no longer needed (a utility that can be provided at virtually no cost via technology), federalized government is no longer needed, either. we are probably past the point where physical borders have any meaning, too, but we haven't realized it... yet.


Accounting101's picture

For Christ's sake! The Oligarchs are rolling with laughter from on high. They have the rubes right where they want them. Barefoot and dumb.

taint's picture

Retirement as we currently know it is a fantasy land.  Before SS, people worked until they died.   Funding 10,000 new retirees per day for the 25 years is not workable.  

Bottom line:  to fix SS is to raise the retirement age to 75.  The productive retire early and the rest work until they die.

It is the natural order. 

dunce's picture

I have often seen that idea of raising the retirement age that completely ignores the fact that there must be jobs for those people until they do retire. Look around at what the government has done since we got obama and full democrat control. The number of people that have claimed disability and others that just dropped out of the work force. There is a law against age discrimination but it is rarely enforced because it is hard to prove. i retired early on my own dime and needed some more funds and could not even get interviews. Socialism always fails, and this time it will be no different. The laws of economics are as inviolable as the laws of physics. Legislation is of limited use. "There ought to be a law" is not the answer

Accounting101's picture

It's not workable, unless of course it's workable. Tell me, what happens after Krasting's end of the world date? Do you know?

Dr. Sandi's picture


Krasting's end of the world date? Do you know?

Ummmm, the end of the world?

MeBizarro's picture

Not necessarily. They often worked until they were physically/mentally incapitated and unable to handle a job.  Raising the retirement age to 75 would just ensure that those who are the wealthiest and most well off collect the most.

Why is it that none of the conservatives mention that SSI is the single most REGRESSIVE tax on the planet.  There isn't another tax that comes close to walloping the poor as much as the 6.2% SSI payroll tax capped at slightly over $100k annually.  

Bob Sacamano's picture

The system was set up to fund a base retirement income with everyone putting in roughly the same amount and getting out roughly the same amount.   That's the way a retirement fund works.  Not another re-distribution scheme.

I know -- you are entitled to receive more than your share of SS contributions -- you want someone else's SS contributions too.   Lots of you out there. 

hound dog vigilante's picture

you're partially correct... most conservatives do NOT take issue w/ SSI's regressiveness.  But libertarians do recognize this that call it out consistently.

step one - get your mind OUT of the right/left US political paradigm... nothing will be solved by while we remain in the status quo mindset.

RKDS's picture

Productive my ass.  Mismanaging executards suckling at the government teat are who needs to die sooner rather than later.

Tall Tom's picture

Mismanaging executards think that they are sucking Government Teat. But they are actually surprised when that Milk is Semen as they are sucking Government Cock.


Yes they are prostitute homosexual cocksuckers...just like the President which they bought and paid for.