The retirement nest egg of an entire generation is stashed away in this small town along the Ohio River: $2.5 trillion in IOUs from the federal government, payable to the Social Security Administration. It's time to start cashing them in. For more than two decades, Social Security collected more money in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits — billions more each year. Not anymore. This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more. Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors.
Let’s do some simple arithmetic. If the Social Security Trust Fund has $2.5 trillion in government bonds – at the current interest rate of 4.5% it receives around $112 billion in interest income. So if benefits exceed payroll contributions by only $29 billion, wouldn’t the Trust Fund assets grow by $83 billion? Of course, Mr. Ohlemacher seems to be of the belief that these Trust Fund assets are supposed to cover those General Fund deficits. Ahem!