Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Social Security to start cashing in IOUs

The fiscal noose tightens on Social Security:
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – 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. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg's municipal offices.

Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn't be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come. [emphasis added] ...

Read the rest here. Won't those folks in China and those other foreigners who buy our debt be thrilled to know that they are funding our seniors' retirement? And what happens if, or more likely when, those foreign governments and investors decide they don't wanna play that game, and the Federal Reserve has to conjure up money from thin air to buy it ("monetize" the debt is the obfuscatory term they like to use)?

No comments: