Social Security Full Fiscal Year Results – Flash Report

Bruce Krasting's picture

In Washington, almost every report is late. The exception is Social Security. They have their numbers for September posted as of today. The folks in D.C. run their clocks on a fiscal year that ends in September. The following are the results and YoY comparisons for fiscal 2010 and 2011 for SS.

Both the top line revenue and benefit expenses rose over the year. It’s not surprising to see that the pace of payouts is continuing to outstrip the rate of revenue growth.

It should be noted that the $24.3b of increased payments is not a result of a COLA (inflation) adjustment. There has been no inflation adjusted increases in the past two years for SS. The higher 2011 payout is exclusively the result of more retiring workers becoming eligible for benefits. The number of new beneficiaries is now growing by 10,000 a day, 7 days a week. That number is going up in fiscal 2012. It will go up every year for the next 14 (The boomers are coming on fast and steady).

I believe that there will be a COLA adjustment for 2012. I estimate ~2%. The inflation adjustment and the aging population will result in an increase in benefit payments next year of ~$40 billion (5.7%). With revenues rising much less than that, the red ink at SS is going to rise next year and for as far as I can see into the future.

What matters (to me) is cash flow. On the critical measure of FICA tax revenues minus Benefits the number comes up negative. For 2011 it will be $57.9 B in deficit. That compares to the red ink a year before that was (only) $47.2B.

The other Cash components that I am estimating for fiscal 2011 include:

Tax on Benefits = +$23b
RR retirement = -$5b
Overhead = -$7b

The sum of all the cash components brings the annual number to -$46.9b versus 2010’s -$36.2. Clearly, things are continuing to head the wrong way at the SSTF

Interest Income is a component of the picture that is not paid in cash. It is paid in script. I expect this number to be $114b. When the "paper" is included in the calculation it will look as if (and be reported as such) that there is a net surplus of $67.1b. I think this is deceiving.  The Headline will read “Surplus”,  but the reality is that SS is just a drain on us today. It is just a larger promise that has to be kept tomorrow.

For those who “Cheer” a surplus that includes phony interest I point out that in 2006/2007 the surplus was $190b and in 2008 (just 3 years ago) it was $180b. 2011 shows a significant slowdown. The Surplus will have fallen by 2/3rds from that recorded in 2007 (before TSHTF). In a matter of a few short years (and way ahead of the current forecasts) there will be no surplus at all. Not even one made out of confetti.

There are significant adjustments that have been made to the 2010/11 numbers. These represent re-statements of prior years estimates. The adjustment amount in 2010 came to a -$26b. So far in 2011 only $14bn has been recorded.  Of the $13.6b  of improved tax receipts in 2011, approximately $9b comes from changes in YoY adjustments. In other words, the apples to apples comparison of revenues is only +$4.0b (0.6%).

The annual adjustments to income cloud the results at SS. My conclusion is that on a straight comparison basis there is very little YoY change in revenues at SS. The implication is that there is little growth in total payrolls and there is little growth in wages. That’s not surprising at all. I expect that this will show up in the next few months of NFP numbers. I would, as a rule, take the “Under” on all those estimates.

There is one interesting thing to consider with SS.  They have this paper surplus called a Trust Fund. That Trust Fund earns paper interest. Lots of it. At the end of the year that fund will total $2.65 trillion. It will have an investment average maturity of 7 years. The rate of interest paid to SS is currently 4.25%.

Now consider that the Treasury yields today for 7 years is a measly 1.58%. The difference of 2.67% comes to a whopping $70 billion a year in “excess” interest being paid to SS.

If one applied this same thinking to SS’s sisters, (the Military and Federal Workers Funds) it comes to ~$4T of principal that we are (over) paying interest on. The excess interest on the whole mess that is referred to as the “Federal Pension Obligations” comes to a very important $100+ billion. Every Year!

I’m not sure what to make of this. Clearly society is providing a significant ON BUDGET subsidy to these programs (this alone is 7% of the deficit). At a time when everything else is getting ReFi-ed at lower rates (and savers are getting creamed on their holdings) there should be a discussion of the biggest ReFi of them all, the federal Trust Funds.


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chinawholesaler's picture

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Don Levit's picture


The funds were not invested in Tresury securities.  The funds and interest were spent on current government expenses and lowered the deficits.  How can the money be in the Treasury (and spent) and in the Treasury securites, at the same time?

See my post on page 1.

How about your providing some reputable links to back your verbose reply.

Or, at least reply to my government excerpt and link.

Don Levit

boiltherich's picture

Don, what was done and what we were told for all these years they were doing might be two different things and frankly I could not care less, if anyone here thinks the boomers are going to just sit back and go Geee Whiz, my luck stinks, they played games with our retirement funds (annuity) and lost it all so I will pasively take that fucking up the ass and work the rest of my life till I bleed out all over the McCounter...  HA!  Think again, the assets are out there and they will be found and used for the promises made.  No threats or sedition intended, call it a promise from people who are better at keeping them, they will honor their agreements or they will die at the hands of flash mobs so large and angry nothing can stop them. 

boiltherich's picture

Dream on Cornhole.  The wealthy who exploited labor for 50 years in the USA cannot default on 70 million boomers SS and think they are pulling off the biggest heist in history.  It would be self defeating to even try, aside from the uprising of the huge gray haired mobs you would collapse the economy by NOT paying the benefits. 

And you are wrong about a counter argument, some people are not just tough on the keyboards, they have the ability to make life in the real world utterly miserable for the greedy douche bags on the right that piss and moan 24/7 about living up to their promises.  These might win on the SS question, and they might lose sure, but they can and will make life at least as hard for you as you think you are making it for them. 

Corn1945's picture

Social Security recipients will be paid in devalued currency. The few Internet Tough Guys on Zero Hedge may understand that and resist it, but the overwhelming majority don't grasp the concept.The Internet Tough Guys secretely agree with me, hence the rage.

You were promised $X. You will receive $X. That's where the "promises" start and end. No promise was ever made as to what $X would buy.

The great part is there is no valid counter-argument. You were promised $X. You will receive $X. What is your complaint? Was a purchasing power guarantee ever made to you? No, it wasn't.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

I love the meme "old folks don't understand inflation, and we'll use it to cut their benefits".  LOL. The system has a COLA adjustment, because we went through all that nonsense in the 1970s.  People also understand when the COLA adjustment is being adjusted, so forget about it.

Face the facts.  In its essence this is a political struggle, and you don't have the political muscle (e.g. votes) to make it happen.  You'll have to collapse the entire system and if you think only old people will suffer in that scenario, I suggest you take a look at Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

Corn1945's picture

The COLA adjustments will be rigged. I already explained this in another comment quite clearly. I promise you will get a COLA adjustment. I also promise the COLA adjustment will be much less than the inflation rate. The inflation rate will be rigged lower as well.

This is already happening. It's not a theory. Did SS recipients get a COLA last year? No. Yet inflation was not zero. It is already happening.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

It won't go on for long.  As soon as people experience economic hardship, they'll figure it out.  Of course if they manage to shave 1% off a year, it'll be awhile before anyone notices and it won't solve your problem.  All it will take is one "progressive" President and any shortfall will be restored.  Probably with a nice fat FICA hike.

mt paul's picture

Federal trust fund ..    4 trillion 

[ fed employees and military ]

is bigger than SS trust fund ...    2.65 trillion


yep there it is ...

AldousHuxley's picture

Social Security = pyramid scheme dependent on ever growing population



Bob's picture

Sounds a lot like our money system itself, debt-money, yes?  So what's the real problem--that it benefits the wrong people?

AldousHuxley's picture

that pyramid scheme runs out of suckers. In US they ran out 30 years ago, so they opened up the borders. US Elites don't care about young Americans or future of American culture as long as old voters keep quiet as they claim their SS checks.


pyramid scheme ends too late for the stupid populace to notice. Meanwhile status quo is able to rape and pillage their own country and accuse the actual smart citizens asking for change the idiots.



duckhook's picture

Since I have not gone through the report ,i have one question Does the 2.65 triilion trust fund reflect  bonds trading over par value as a 7 year 4.25 bond would reflect.If that is the case then interest of 4.25% maturing over time would be partially offset by a loss of principle to reflect the 1.55 % that 7 year notes yield.

People have argued that these intergovenmental trust funds should not not really count as debt.I can understand their argument;however if you do exclude these Trust funds from overall debt,then you just increase the deficit in these programs in the future.

One more point that you made about means testing of SS benefits .To really make a difference in the porgram .means testing would have to start at levels of as low as 20,000$.Most people and more importantly politicians do not consider 20,000 as rich or or even close to affluent.

Bruce Krasting's picture

The top 20% get an average monthly check of $2,200. The Top 20% do not need this money. There is 45mm people getting checks. 9mm are in the top bracket. That comes to $200 billion a year.That would stabilize SS. It would reserve the benefit structure fo those who need it. This is an insurance plan. If you're in in the top 20% you don't need the insurance.

The line about 20,000 is just bunk.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

We're wise to your strategy here Bruce.  Divide and conquer.  If you can get more people out of the program, you might someday get enough votes to kill it.  That's not happening.

And while I'm at it I just like to LOL a bit about attempts to "privatize" SS under Bush.  How'd that work out for you and your criminal Wall St. buddies?  After 2008 privatization will never be on the agenda again.

Corn1945's picture

It's none of your fucking business who "needs" the money. The program was structured so everyone pays in and everyone gets a payout. Otherwise it's just a welfare program that should be eliminated along with the rest.

bbaez's picture

Is Ron Paul going to audit the SS Funds too

Was it looted by the black budget etc...

I thought there was a point where money was removed and now we youngers have to pay to make up for it



kevinearick's picture

ah, the process...

linrom's picture

Your Social Security also pays for 18 year olds' war disabilities for LIFE.  This is just another example how the Defense Dept hides its real expenditures.  For those of you new to this topic, there are billion dollar funded think tanks created for the single purpose of attacking and shaping public opinion on Social Security.

Do you see any web sites that continuously attack war mongers and war profiteers? You can create hundreds of war profiteers billionaires through black hole procurement scams, but you can't create billionaires out of preying on millions of Social Security recipients.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

You seem to be implying that you didn't favor privatizing SS sometime before 2008.  Have I got that right?  LOL.

Bob's picture

?  I didn't catch that at all. 

ThirdCoastSurfer's picture

Obama's 2011 2% payroll reduction is to FICA.

He will request an extension for 2012 next Thursday, possibly expanding it to include a deduction for employers.

When I look up FICA it refers only to Social Security & Medicare. I must be mistaken.  What is the disconnect here?

Why do we prattle on about funding versus spending if no attention is going to be paid to extending and even expanding this reduction? 

Bob's picture

Damn good question.  I suspect that it's to clear the way forward for writing off the SSTF's assets.  While an army of useful idiots propagandize the public about its dim future, useful fascist tools like Obama will continue to do everything in their power to give it away in real time to those who don't believe they should pay their debts/taxes. 

Hedgetard55's picture

As several posters have noted, the Feds will print whatever they need to send you your check. It may not buy anything, but in nominal terms it is what you were promised. Printing money is default by another name.


It's a Ponzi - a long term Ponzi, but a Ponzi and it will fail. the money has been stolen just like with Madoff, however, no one put a gun to the heads of Madoff's marks - Social Security does.

Alpha Monkey's picture

no one put a gun to the heads of Madoff's marks - Social Security does.

Strange, I don't seem to recall massive protests against SS and the use of force to quell them.  Ooooh, I get it, instead of getting off your couch and being responsible for your future you will just continue the blame game.   Now, where else have I seen that strategy employed.... OH that's right, those same politicians that put guns to peoples heads to keep them locked in front of their TV.  Guess I know how we got here now.

I know, I know, rioting against oppressive powers is for poor people and minorities.  Everyone else should have everything done for them...

Hedgetard55's picture



     Bullshit. The money is forcibly extracted by the government from both employer and employee on pain of jail. You hold back your SS payments, you can go to jail.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Same for every other tax.  Where to move to?  Bora bora?

themiestro's picture

I'd opt for a one way time machine to pre 1913

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Not all ponzi's are created equal.  As you noted SS has the taxing authority of the most powerful state ever created standing behind it.  And behind that are a veritable cornucopia of government assets.

Your arguments have been repeated here and rebutted ad nauseum.  Repeating failed arguments over and over does not work.

Hedgetard55's picture

You haven'rt rebutted a thing. If Madoff had the power to force more money out of his clients he would still be in business as well. SS has all the hallmarks of a Ponzi - it is merely the ability to forcibly extract ever greater amounts of money from the citizens/clients/marks at gun point that have enabled it to endure so long. And that long endurance ensures an even greater crash/loss/disaster. How is it you cannot see that?

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Madoff did not have any other funds to tap.  This government wastes all kinds of money.  Corporate welfare and foreign aid comes to mind.  That must all be cut first.  The government also has assets to sell.  There is more than enough to make good.

If this answer is unsatisfactory I suggest you read the discussions above and get educated.

Bob's picture

And in what way would this be different from other government debt, say that incurred to finance war? Speaking of guns and all . . .

Don Levit's picture

There are basically 2 perspectives when it comes to trust fund accounting:  the Trust Fund  Perapective  and the Budget Perspective.

The Budget Perspective is a more comprehensive approach, amd is generally consudered more accurate than the Trust Fund Perspective.   The Trust Fund Perspective considers the Social Security trust fund to be filled with gold ingots, readily covertible to cash.

From a paper published by the Treasury Department entitled "Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds and the Federal Budget:"

Page 13  "From the Trust Fund Perspective , SMI is always 'fully funded' (SMI is Medicare Parts B and D, which is funded 75% by general revenues, wirth an immediate budget expense and 25% by beneficiaries).

From the Budget Perspective, SMI draws huge transfers.

Page 17  "Net results  for Budget Perspective  -  Revenues from public less expenses to public.

Net results for Trust Fund Perspective  -  Revenues from public less expenses to public PLUS GENERAL FUND TRANSFERS PLUS TRUST FUND ASSETS."

Don Levit

ddtuttle's picture

This is all accounting nonsense.  The boomers contributed far more to SS than reuqired to take care of our parents. (About 4.5 Trillion) The surplus was SUPPOSED to be used to fund our elephant-in-the-python retirement needs.  Unfortunately, the gov spent ALL of the surplus a long time ago.  The bottom line is that boomer SS benefits already are swamping FICA, and so must be supplemented from revenues or borrowing, there isn't anything else (well we could steal it ...).  This is a vast unfunded liabiltity that is not on the books, because, technnically, the US can default on the obligation anytime it wants; c.f., by means testing.  


The idea that we don't need to fix this is perposterous, of course we do.  If you think you desrve your SS benefits because you paid in, grow up, they already stole that from you.  This isn't "insurance", it's whatever the gov says it is.

All this makes you wonder whether gov should be doing any of this.  You can't trust a huge company like GM with your pension because they go BK and walk away.  Now you can't trust the gov with it either, because THEY go BK and walk away. Wonderful!

And we haven't even talked about Medicare.




Bicycle Repairman's picture

I was going to rebut your points, but there is nothing new in your post.  Please read above and get educated.

jon's picture

you want to refinance the trust funds. how will that happen? they're non-marketable IOUs.

so what were they worth yesterday, and what could they be worth now?

should we just tell the IOUs that in america, they can grow up to be anything they want, even the president?

Cthonic's picture

Let's face it, Ida May Fuller won, and so did every other early 'participant' of this social engineering fiasco that was shoved down our throats after Roosevelt (fudge)packed the Supreme Court.  Playing with Social Security cash flows now is like trying to prop up Banco Zarossi; ultimately futile.  Oh sure, you can make the payouts, they just won't be worth anything in real terms. Such a generous gift the Boomers gave their parents!

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"means-test the back-end"

No.  You are confused.  SS isn't an entitlement.  Also you write like you're in charge here.  You aren't.

snowball777's picture

Also you write like you're in charge here.  You aren't.

You should display your hall-monitor badge more prominently next time. LOL

Bicycle Repairman's picture

Let's count the votes and see who's paying.  Or you can simply bend over now.

snowball777's picture

It's insurance. Can I get my decades of premiums back from All State since I've never been in an accident?

Bicycle Repairman's picture

You pay year to year for your auto insurance, so when the year ends, coverage ends.  If you have an accident this year Allstate will indemnify you.  Even if the cost of the accident exceeds every dime you've ever paid to Allstate, plus interest.

Insurance so complicated you'd think you'd need an actuary to figure this stuff out.  LOL.

snowball777's picture

So they refund my premium at the end of every policy period then? Uh huh, thought so.


Bicycle Repairman's picture

No they don't and I did not say that they did.  If you cannot understand a simple concept like auto insurance then STFU and just read along.

Gromit's picture

Let's recognize that this $46.9 Billion is fiscal stimulus to the economy.

Used to be a tax when contributions exceeded benefits, No more.

Similarly the entire budget deficit ($1,400,000,000,000 whatever) represents fiscal stimulus before QE3 etc.etc.

Libertarian777's picture

but if spending that $46.9 billion stimulates the economy, isn't taking that $46.9 billion OUT of the economy by taxes a 'drag' on the economy? For a net of ZERO?

How about not taxing me FICA at all and let me spend my money where I wish, then I get to directly stimulate the economy with the fruits of my labour.

And for all the idiots who think SS is 'owed' to them because they paid into it, get a grip. You can't pay 6% of your salary up to $100k (about $6k a year) for 45 years and then expect to get $18k out for 25 years.

Even ignoring compounding effects of the COLA increases, how can you pay in $270k and take out $450k. That's a ponzi scheme. And don't kid yourself, US treasuries (SS fund 'assets') do not create a real return, the only interest treasuries pay are nominal and are paid via debasement of the dollar.