On Feb. 20th, 2011, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) made this claim on NBC's Meet the Press:
"Social Security does not add one penny to the deficit."
He went on to state that "Social Security untouched will make every promised payment for more than 25 years" and that a change in policy will be necessary to sustain the program beyond that date. Even so, Durbin maintains, Social Security "does not have any impact on the deficit."
After carefully reviewing the factual evidence and arguments on both sides of this controversial issue, we find Sen. Durbin's claim "half true."
Other senior Democrats, such as Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, recently made the same statement, using similar black-and-white language to defend Social Security. As we have often found on Truthsquad, reality is usually more nuanced than that -- and comes in many shades of gray.
The controversy over this heated issue has polarized Americans across party lines, with Democrats claiming that Social Security has no impact on the deficit, and Republicans claiming the opposite. As we researched this claim, many of the articles we read on this topic tended to agree with one side or the other, and only a few non-partisan sources presented a neutral perspective on this politically charged issue.
Despite the tension between these opposing viewpoints, most observers seem to agree on these facts:
• Social Security is required by law to be self-financing
• Payroll taxes exceeded benefit payments regularly until 2010
• This generated a surplus of $2.5 trillion in the Social Security Trust Funds
• There is now a net shortfall which is expected to deplete the surplus by 2037
• Treasury borrowed from the surplus in the Trust Funds to pay for other programs
• The government is now having to borrow money to pay its Social Security obligations