Is Social Security basically gone when the trust fund is empty?
You would think so from watching the news these days, but no, not even close. Assuming that Congress does absolutely nothing to improve the situation, Social Security is still projected to be able to pay each person 77 percent of their scheduled benefits in 2033.
In fact, when my great-niece (who was born the day I started working on this article) turns 74 in 2088, Social Security still looks to be on track to cover about 72 percent of each person's scheduled benefits.
But that assumes that Congress does absolutely nothing. Won't they do something about the "Social Security Crisis"?
I know that it's hard to imagine Congress not doing anything. But all sarcasm aside, as the third-most-popular service our government provides, Social Security's popularity is only eclipsed by Medicare and fighting crime, and it's one slot above the national defense. In fact, only 10 percent of Americans support reducing the amount we spend on Social Security, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center poll. I don't know what Congress might or might not do, but unless there's a radical shift in public opinion, it's difficult to imagine how eliminating benefits completely would wind up on the table.
Whatever they may or may not do, there's a strong incentive for politicians to proceed with care. The majority of Americans will collect monthly payments from Social Security if they live long enough, so most voters have a personal stake in seeing Social Security benefits remain in place and at the same level. The program was purposely set up this way to make it more politically stable. This is one of several reasons why some people say proposing cuts to Social Security is political suicide.