The big assumptions….


Looking over the 2005 Trustees’ report on Social Security, the new “pessimistic” projections—which bring the date of imbalance one year nearer—seem to depend on four small assumptions that have changed since last year, as the report explains on this page. The assumptions:

  • Young people are going to be making less money in the future than was predicted by last years’ report.

  • Americans aged 65 through 69 are going to die less frequently.

  • Both teenagers and older workers are going to work less.

  • More inflation in the near-term future.
  • Now all of these assumptions seem to be grounded in solid historical data, but like all assumptions and projections, they’re prone to a good deal of uncertainty. They’re also, except for the death rates of Americans aged 65 to 69, mostly amenable to policy solutions. Is higher inflation in the future, for instance, a foregone conclusion? Not necessarily. Is low labor force participation among teenagers? Why not figure out ways to boost employment among the young? It’s easier said than done, but still.

    Meanwhile, the Trustees’ report decided not to change assumptions about immigration rates, even though those rates have increased in recent years, and there’s every reason to think they’ll continue to increase in the future if we set sensible policies. The Trustees, however, think immigration rates will decline. Now perhaps they assume that the xenophobic wing of the GOP—like Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO)—will one day rule the country and shut our borders, but that’s no way to calculate long-range actuarial balance. Same with fertility rates; many think the Trustees’ projections on this front are too pessimistic. Maybe, but it’s also worth noting that there’s certainly the option of instituting pro-natalist policies that encourage people to have kids (subsidized child care, perhaps?). The government of the United States of America isn’t helpless here.

    DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

    Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

    It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

    We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

    We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

    It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

    Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

    Signed by Clara Jeffery

    Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

    We Recommend

    Latest

    Sign up for our newsletters

    Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

    Get our award-winning magazine

    Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

    Subscribe

    Support our journalism

    Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

    Donate

    Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.