Social Security

September 10, 2021 • Volume 31, Issue 31
Will Congress act to shore up its financing?
By Barbara Mantel


Social Security, the nation's largest mandatory federal program, is in financial trouble. Its costs are exceeding its revenues, and the government is tapping the program's trust fund this year to help pay benefits. In July, the program paid more than $93 billion in cash benefits to more than 65 million people: retirees, people with disabilities, and spouses, dependents and survivors. Half of older married couples and 70 percent of single seniors count on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their income. If Congress does not act, the trust fund will run dry by 2034, according to government actuaries, and benefits would have to be cut by about one-fifth. Analysts and lawmakers across the political spectrum have proposed fixes. Some advocate cutting benefits and shrinking the payroll tax that funds Social Security, while others call for raising taxes and expanding benefits. Experts say the longer Congress waits to act, the more abrupt and difficult any changes will be.

Photo of a grandfather enjoying an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game with his grandson in Phoenix on August 31, 2017. (Getty Images/Jennifer Stewart)
A grandfather enjoys an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game with his grandson in Phoenix. Social Security, the nation's largest mandatory federal program, is in financial trouble, which could mean cuts to retiree benefits by 2034 if Congress does not act. (Getty Images/Jennifer Stewart)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Social Security
Sep. 10, 2021  Social Security
Jun. 03, 2016  Social Security
Sep. 24, 2004  Social Security Reform
Oct. 02, 1998  Saving Social Security
May 12, 1995  Overhauling Social Security
Apr. 05, 1991  Social Security: The Search for Fairness
Dec. 17, 1982  Social Security Options
Jun. 29, 1979  Social Security Reassessment
Dec. 27, 1974  Retirement Security
Sep. 20, 1972  Social Security Financing
Dec. 14, 1966  Social Security Improvements
Mar. 28, 1956  Social Security for the Disabled
Mar. 26, 1953  Social Security Expansion
Aug. 17, 1951  Relief Rolls in Prosperity
Dec. 24, 1949  Pensions for All
Aug. 12, 1948  Security for the Aged
Apr. 11, 1946  Social Insurance
Mar. 02, 1944  Social Security
Dec. 02, 1939  Liberalization of the Social Security System
Oct. 01, 1938  Agitation for Pension and Scrip Schemes
Jul. 26, 1938  Revision of the Social Security Act
Oct. 02, 1936  The Social Security Controversy
Nov. 12, 1934  Federal Assistance to the Aged
Aug. 23, 1930  Public Old-Age Pensions
Aging Issues
Congress Actions
Deficit, Federal Debt, and Balanced Budget
Economic Crises
Employee Benefits
Medicaid and Medicare
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Retirement, Pensions, and Social Security
Social Security
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Work and the Family