Advocates for increasing Social Security's benefits are counting on today's release of the annual trustees report to provide some fodder for their cause.
While the yearly analysis confirmed the program's long-term funding woes, proponents for expansion say it also proves the government can afford it.
"The numbers make it clear that the question about whether to expand or cut Social Security is a question of values, not affordability," said Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition.
The report, released this afternoon, echoed last year's projected revenue shortfalls starting in the mid-2020s and leading to a depleted surplus by 2035. At that point, unless Congress has taken steps to shore it up, the program will be able to fund about 75 percent of benefits. By 2090, unfunded obligations would reach $12.5 trillion by 2091, up from $11.4 trillion a year ago. Longer-range estimates beyond that paint an even bleaker picture.
Medicare, meanwhile, saw at least one aspect of its finances improve slightly. The trustees project that Medicare Part A — which covers hospital stays, skilled nursing facilities and the like — will be depleted in 2029, one year later than projected a year ago. When that money runs out, dedicated revenues will be sufficient to pay 88 percent of Part A's costs.
However, Altman points to other information in the trustees' lengthy assessment of Social Security that often gets overshadowed.
For instance, the program isn't expected to comprise a much larger percentage of gross domestic product in the future than it already does. The new report shows the program's cost will equal 4.9 of GDP this year, increasing to 6.1 percent by 2037. After that it will decline to 5.9 percent by 2050 and climb back to 6.1 percent by 2091. The projected shortfall in that lengthy time frame was pegged as 0.9 percent of annual GDP in last year's overview.