President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the SOCIAL SECURITY ACT of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid, which Republicans have sought to undermine, sabotage and eventually undo ever since. Claims that the fund is running out of money are a cover for the looting of the fund that Republicans (and Congress in general) have carried out, beginning with Ronald Reagan who with the help of Alan Greenspan, pulled off one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated against the American people.
The Social Security Amendments of 1983 laid the foundation for 30-years of federal embezzlement of Social Security money to use the money to pay for wars, tax cuts and other government programs. The payroll tax hike of 1983 generated a total of $2.7 trillion in surplus Social Security revenue. This surplus revenue was supposed to be saved and invested in marketable U.S. Treasury bonds that would be held in the trust fund until the baby boomers began to retire in about 2010. But not one dime of that money went to Social Security.
The mechanism, which allowed the government to transfer $2.7 trillion from the Social Security fund to the general fund over a 30-year period, was the brainchild of President Ronald Reagan and his advisers, especially Alan Greenspan. Greenspan played a key role in convincing Congress and the public to support a hike in the payroll tax. A few years later, Reagan appointed Greenspan to become Chairman of the Federal Reserve System. Since Greenspan’s new job was one of the most coveted positions in Washington, many observers have wondered whether or not this appointment represented, at least in part, payback for the role Greenspan had played in making vast sums of new revenue available to the government.
President Reagan and his advisors knew, from the very beginning, that the government would soon face a severe cash shortage. Budget Director, David Stockman, had deliberately rigged the computer at the Office of Management and Budget to generate bogus revenue forecasts in an effort to convince Congress to enact Reagan’s unaffordable proposed tax cuts. When Stockman first fed the data from Reagan’s economic proposals into the computer, he was shocked. The computer forecast that, if Reagan’s proposals were enacted into law, massive budget deficits would loom ahead for as far as the eye could see.
Social Security was definitely not “teetering on the edge of bankruptcy” in 1981 as Reagan claimed in his letter to Congressional leaders. The 1983 National Commission on Social Security Reform, headed by Alan Greenspan, issued its “findings and recommendations” in January 1983. The Commission accurately foresaw major problems for Social Security when the baby boomers began to retire in about 2010. But that was nearly two decades down the road. In addition to the long-term problem of the baby boomers, the Commission found a possible short-term problem for the years 1983-89. Nevertheless, Reagan set out to convince a gullible public that Social Security was his chief focus.
There is no way that anyone who knew Reagan’s record would accept his claim that Social Security was his highest priority. He had always wanted the program eliminated, or at least privatized.
Reagan’s scare tactics worked. Congress passed the Social Security Amendments of 1983, which included a hefty increase in the payroll tax rate. The tax increase was designed to generate large Social Security surpluses for the next 30 years. The public was led to believe that the surplus money would be saved and invested in marketable U.S. Treasury Bonds, which could later be resold to raise cash with which to pay benefits to the boomers. But that didn’t happen. The money was all deposited directly into the general fund and used for non-Social Security purposes. Reagan spent every dime of the surplus Social Security revenue, which came in during his presidency, on general government operations. His successor, George H.W. Bush, used the surplus money as a giant slush fund, and both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush looted and spent all of the Social Security surplus revenue that flowed in during their presidencies. So we can’t blame the whole problem on Reagan. Reagan was the one who figured out a way to use Social Security money as general revenue, and his successors just followed his example.
The most recent tax cuts under the Trump Administration continues this subterfuge. If republicans can create enough of a deficit they can lie that “the only way to make up for the deficit” is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Keep your eye out for this kind of lie. And keep your hand on your wallet.