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Social Security Myths

Bernie Sanders recently claimed that Social Security is the most successful government program in the history of the United States. Is he correct? Emphatically, yes. Tens of millions of Americans benefit from Social Security, many of them retired. The monthly payments provide a financial safety net that keeps over 22 million Americans out of poverty. Despite its success, however, Social Security has to deal with its share of myths.

You may have heard millennials complain that Social Security will go bankrupt by the time they are retired and, thus, they will never receive the benefits their parents and grandparents did. While it is true that the funds for Social Security are drying up, they will never quite disappear. In the most recent Social Security Board of Trustees report, the Trustees sounded the alarm that there will be an almost $14 trillion cash shortfall between 2035 and 2093. If revenue is not added or expenditures are lowered (or both), beneficiaries will see an up-to 23 percent reduction in their benefits.

Social Security is a trust funded by recurring revenue, as taxes are consistently levied on working employees. In theory, as long as people are working, Social Security will be funded. But if more people are receiving benefits than are working to replenish the trust, the amount of those monthly benefit checks will steadily decrease to something insignificant if no additional money is put into the trust from the government.

Many people are also concerned that illegal immigrants are receiving Social Security benefits, and if we get rid of all the illegal immigrants, Social Security will be safe. For a number of reasons, this myth is not remotely accurate. First, see the above paragraph. Second, you can only receive Social Security benefits if you have a social security number (SSN). Illegal immigrants cannot obtain SSNs because they are, by nature, undocumented.

It is important to remember: Social Security is largely dependent on legal immigrants, so limiting entry to the United States will only be to the detriment of every American who currently receives or hopes to receive Social Security benefits one day. Most legal immigrants are young and have many working years ahead of them, and we need their consistent contributions to the trust fund.