Scapegoating the Elderly for U.S. Budget Deficits & Debt
Pie charts, bar charts, tables, graphs, and other depictions of the federal budget abound in the media. These pictorial representations of what Congress budgets for such things as education, agriculture, health care, and so forth invariably include all of Social Security and Medicare. Hence, they are consistently wrong. None of the expenditures for Social Security are budgeted and have absolutely no impact on the budget or deficits. Less than half of Medicare expenditures are budgeted because beneficiaries pick up a large amount of the costs.
Social Security benefits are “earned” by beneficiaries who have paid in during their working years through a payroll tax. Benefits for each beneficiary are actuarily tracked and payouts are based on what is paid in.
Dr. Max Skidmore, University of Missouri Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Political Science (Emeritus) explains the history and functioning of Social Security in an accompanying blog post today. Dr. Skidmore is a leading expert on Social Security and colleague of those of us contributing to this blog (see e.g. his book Securing America’s Future: A Bold Plan to Preserve and Expand Social Security with a Foreword by former senator George McGovern).
Over Half of Medicare is Paid for by Beneficiaries Through Payroll Taxes, Premiums, and Out of Pocket Expenses. All of Social Security is Off Budget Because it is Earned by Beneficiaries.
In calendar year 2021, Medicare expended $839.3 billion, of which $405.4 billion (48.3%) was budgeted. None of the $1.14 trillion expended by Social Security for earned benefits are part of the federal budget. Hence, my estimation is that of an approximately $5.5 trillion 2022 FY budget, only $.405 trillion (7.4%) was budgeted for all of Social Security (0%) and Medicare (7.4%).
The Harm Done by Misinformation
Claims that the elderly are receiving the biggest share of the annual budget dampens the public’s support for much needed assistance with out-of-pocket Medicare costs, home health care, housing assistance (including assisted living), and other essential services and financial needs for daily living. Financial moguls such as the late multi-billionaire Peter G. Peterson and conservative politicians have been leading a propaganda war against Social Security and Medicare from their inception in the 1930s and 1960s.
Many seniors are suffering due to the cost of pharmaceuticals and co-pays, deductibles, and premiums. Transportation, housing, food, along with medical care and other costs for the needs of daily living are robbing a huge proportion of the growing 65+ population of a decent life in their elderhood. The blatant falsehoods coming from some super rich Wall Streeters and conservative politicians are causing pain for hardworking people who are being denied a decent quality of life. We intend to fight back!