It was exactly 75 years ago that Franklin Roosevelt enacted the Social Security program. Created in part to counteract the high rate of poverty among older Americans who had left the workforce, it has proven to be one of the most successful social insurance programs ever developed, providing millions of Americans with the resources they need to survive. Despite its proven fortitude over the last several decades, the impending retirement of the baby boom generation has raised fresh concerns about the program's solvency. A recent poll commissioned by the National Academy for Social Insurance found that 55 percent of Americans do not expect that Social Security will still be paying benefits by the time they retire. Young people were even more doubtful of the program's survival-two-thirds of adults age 18-34 do not expect to receive benefits.
Adding to fears about the program's stability is the heightened public debate over swollen deficits and the trajectory for public debt, as well as the mischaracterization of Social Security as one of the entitlements driving our fiscal imbalances.
However, an objective look at the structural soundness of Social Security and an understanding of the roots of our yawning budget deficit reveal that it is not a dire liability on the federal balance sheet nor is it in any imminent danger of insolvency. Social Security benefit payments are fully funded for decades to come, and under current budget projections, average lifetime benefits are slated to grow higher for each new crop of beneficiaries. Relatively modest tweaks to the program's financing will further strengthen the system for generations to come.