So NPR gave time this morning to Paul Taylor to wax catastrophic about why Social Security is going to eat us all in a naked attempt to create an anti-senior backlash among millennials. No transcript yet, but among the many scary numbers he cited is the beneficiary-to-population ratio, which basically gives the impression that senior citizens are an all-consuming mass whose insatiable hunger for early-bird buffets and tchotchkes for the grandkids will surely doom us all.
Needless to say, this is extremely misleading. And it’s misleading because, hey guess what, productivity and technology have also increased a wee bit since the Truman administration. Here’s the share of GDP going to Social Security since 1960:
Everybody panic! It’s…1980!
Now, in that time the senior share of the population has increased:
But ever since the ’83 reforms to Social Security, it’s growth has basically been level with GDP growth. Now, that above chart looks scary, but remember – if our real GDP grows on average at just 2.5% annually, it will double every 28 years, which means that barring protracted economic catastrophe that by the time 2050 rolls around and the senior share of the population has increased by ~7 percentage points that our overall GDP will be approximately two-and-a-half times what it is today, making it easy to pick up a higher tab on behalf of our seniors. And this ignores any new technological efficiencies that might come from automation.
The real point is that if Social Security is a problem in 2050, it’s not a problem with Social Security it’s a problem with our economy, which will have severely malfunctioned. Also, stop trying to turn us kids against our parents and grandparents. We like them, they worked hard, they deserve to retire with dignity. We can afford it.