The bigger picture…

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Social Security, as we know, is not in a crisis. In fact, its already-health long-term outlook has improved with the 2005 Trustees’ Report. Nevertheless, over the next few weeks, media talking heads and the president will no doubt start chattering away over slight shortfalls in the program’s funding 40 years from now.

Never mind the fact that even if these shortfalls do appear in 2041 (or, better yet, in 2052, which is what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicted), the program can still pay 74 percent of promised benefits—benefits that are higher in real terms than those paid out today, and benefits that will likely be higher than anything workers can gain under privatization. (Especially when you factor in the fact that we’ll all have to pay higher income taxes thanks to those multi-trillion dollar transition costs!)

But set that aside for a second and look at the bigger picture. We’re all obsessing over a slight shortfall—a mere 1.37 percent of GDP—four decades from now. Meanwhile, do admire the trunk, ears, and massive girth of the elephant honking around the room: namely, the massive budget deficits we’re running right this very second. Those deficits are 2.6 percent of GDP now, and will amount to a whopping 10.70 percent of GDP in 2042. The primary cause of these deficits, meanwhile, are the Bush tax cuts. And the primary reason that these deficits will accelerate so spectacularly over the next 40 years have little to do with Social Security and almost everything to do with rising health care costs and interest payments on a debt that the current Bush administration refuses to tackle. Max Sawicky has the wonky details here. Bottom line, there’s a crisis going on this very instant, and we’d all do well to keep our eyes on it.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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