In an article on the subject published Sunday, the Associated Press mysteriously hid the seriousness of this revelation while never once mentioning the Republican push to solve this problem four years ago, or that Democrats in January 2006 -- including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) -- actually applauded the death of the previous year's reform efforts.
The obfuscation began with the headline:
"Early Retirements Strain Social Security System."
Strain? How about calling a spade a spade and letting people know up front that Social Security is about to run a deficit?
No. Such honesty came later:
Big job losses and a spike in early retirement claims from laid-off seniors will force Social Security to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes the next two years, the first time that's happened since the 1980s.
The deficits — $10 billion in 2010 and $9 billion in 2011 — won't affect payments to retirees because Social Security has accumulated surpluses from previous years totaling $2.5 trillion. But they will add to the overall federal deficit.
Applications for retirement benefits are 23 percent higher than last year, while disability claims have risen by about 20 percent. Social Security officials had expected applications to increase from the growing number of baby boomers reaching retirement, but they didn't expect the increase to be so large.
What happened? The recession hit and many older workers suddenly found themselves laid off with no place to turn but Social Security.
From there, the piece tugged at the heartstrings by trying to explain how this happened:
Marylyn Kish turns 62 in December, making her eligible for early benefits. She wants to put off applying for Social Security until she is at least 67 because the longer you wait, the larger your monthly check.
But she first needs to find a job. [...]
Kish said her husband already gets early benefits. She will have to apply, too, if she doesn't soon find a job.
Finally, the facts:
The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes next year and in 2011, a first since the early 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security.
Social Security is projected to start generating surpluses again in 2012 before permanently returning to deficits in 2016 unless Congress acts again to shore up the program. Without a new fix, the $2.5 trillion in Social Security's trust funds will be exhausted in 2037.
Might have been a nice time to mention that in 2005, President Bush wanted to overhaul Social Security to prevent this from happening, and that Democrats in Congress aided and abetted by their media minions convinced the American people that this wasn't a serious problem that needed to be addressed yet.
Unfortunately, that wasn't mentioned by the AP. Instead, this was:
President Barack Obama has said he would like to tackle Social Security next year.
Hmmm. So the crisis Bush and the Republicans predicted is now here, and not only doesn't the AP mention that, it also didn't express any shock whatsoever that Obama isn't focusing on this now.
Also curious was the total absence of any discussion concerning how Social Security deficits could impact the current debate concerning healthcare reform.
After all, if deficits are now going to become commonplace to the nation's largest entitlement program, shouldn't that be part of the discussion concerning the proposed creation of a public option for healthcare?
Alas, the AP didn't make that connection.
It will therefore be quite interesting in the coming days to watch how others report this CBO revelation, and if they're equally amnesiac concerning Bush's attempt to solve this problem as well as incurious about how these deficits relate to healthcare reform.