The 80-year-old Social Security program has long been known as the third rail of American politics -- touch it and you die.
Last year alone, more than 59 million Americans received retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits totaling $863 billion. While some lawmakers and policy experts warn that the system will begin to run short of cash beginning in 2035, seniors’ advocacy groups have vigorously fought major changes and cuts.
Some nine out of ten people who are 65 or older receive Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration, with an average monthly benefit of $1,294 average for retirees. Overall, Social Security benefits constitute about 38 percent of the income of the elderly, but that number varies greatly from individual to individual.
For the majority of seniors, Social Security makes up the majority of their income. Sixty-five percent of beneficiaries age 65 and older get more than half of their income from the program. Nearly a third (28%) rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
The pie chart below, prepared by the staff of the congressional Joint Economic Committee, illustrates the range of seniors’ dependence on Social Security benefits:
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated this week that President Trump has now signed legislation that will add a total of $4.7 trillion to the national debt between 2017 and 2029. Tax cuts and spending increases account for similar portions of the projected increase, though if the individual tax cuts in the 2017 Republican overhaul are extended beyond their current expiration date at the end of 2025, they would add another $1 trillion in debt through 2029.
Are interest rates destined to move higher, increasing the cost of private and public debt? While many experts believe that higher rates are all but inevitable, historian Paul Schmelzing argues that today’s low-interest environment is consistent with a long-term trend stretching back 600 years.
The chart “shows a clear historical downtrend, with rates falling about 1% every 60 years to near zero today,” says Bloomberg’s Aaron Brown. “Rates do tend to revert to a mean, but that mean seems to be declining.”
Lawmakers are considering three separate bills that are intended to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Here’s an overview of the proposals, from a series of charts produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation this week. An interesting detail highlighted in another chart: 88% of voters – including 92% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans – want to give the government the power to negotiate prices with drug companies.
From Gallup: “A record 25% of Americans say they or a family member put off treatment for a serious medical condition in the past year because of the cost, up from 19% a year ago and the highest in Gallup's trend. Another 8% said they or a family member put off treatment for a less serious condition, bringing the total percentage of households delaying care due to costs to 33%, tying the high from 2014.”