WaPo Misleads on Medicare and Social Security Funding
Covering the release of the annual Medicare and Social Security trustees report for The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein wrote on August 6th:
Specifically, the new report says Medicare’s hospital trust fund will be able to pay all its bills until 2029, compared with last year’s forecast of 2017.
The report predicts that the Social Security trust fund will have enough money until 2037, the same date as in last year’s forecast.
The Post’s economic reporters need to convey to readers that the Medicare and Social Security “trust funds” contain zero funds. This is not up for dispute. When those programs’ revenues exceed outlays, Congress puts the excess in general revenues and spends it. Congress marks the event by leaving an IOU to itself in these “trust funds.” Those IOUs are not “funds,” any more than an IOU that you write to yourself is money. These so-called “trust funds” therefore have no bearing on the (in)solvency of Medicare and Social Security.
Yet every year, the trustees for these programs claim that they do, making the Medicare and Social Security trustees reports an annual, ritualized lie that the U.S. government broadcasts to the American people.