The 80-year-old Social Security program has long been known as the third rail of American politics -- touch it and you die.
Last year alone, more than 59 million Americans received retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits totaling $863 billion. While some lawmakers and policy experts warn that the system will begin to run short of cash beginning in 2035, seniors’ advocacy groups have vigorously fought major changes and cuts.
Some nine out of ten people who are 65 or older receive Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration, with an average monthly benefit of $1,294 average for retirees. Overall, Social Security benefits constitute about 38 percent of the income of the elderly, but that number varies greatly from individual to individual.
For the majority of seniors, Social Security makes up the majority of their income. Sixty-five percent of beneficiaries age 65 and older get more than half of their income from the program. Nearly a third (28%) rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
The pie chart below, prepared by the staff of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, illustrates the range of seniors’ dependence on Social Security benefits:
Health care spending in the U.S. will grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 2017 through 2026, according to new estimates published in Health Affairs by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The projections mean that health care spending would rise as a share of the economy from 17.9 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2026.
Margot Sanger-Katz and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times: “The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health care-related taxes.”
“Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.”
Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to use private debt collection agencies to pursue “inactive tax receivables,” but the financial results are not encouraging so far, according to a new taxpayer advocate report out Wednesday.
In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received $6.7 million from taxpayers whose debts were assigned to private collection agencies, but the agencies were paid $20 million – “three times the amount collected,” the report helpfully points out.
Goldman Sachs economists see the tax bill adding 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in 2018 and 2019 while JP Morgan forecasts a similar gain of 0.3 percentage points next year and 0.2 percentage points the year after.
Goldman’s analysts add that federal spending, which is likely to grow more quickly next year than it has recently, will bring the total fiscal boost to around 0.6 percentage points for 2018 and 0.4 percentage points in 2019.
Both banks see deficits likely rising above $1 trillion, or about 5 percent of GDP, in 2019.