In the course of debunking a particularly bad article by Fareed Zakaria on what he perceives to be high costs of Social Security and Medicare, Dean Baker makes a point which I think is very useful in turning back attacks on Social Security. Baker writes:
Zakaria is upset that seniors are allowed to receive the benefits that they have paid for. By the same logic, he should be upset that billionaires like Peter Peterson can get millions or even tens of millions of dollars in interest each year on the government bonds they own. After all, this money would be far better spent educating our children than being put in the pockets of these incredibly wealthy people. The Zakaria methodology would have us go after these interest payments on the debt, if it were applied consistently.
Of course the idea of ceasing to pay interest on government bonds would be received as absurd in most any quarter. But it is effectively what those who take issue with the federal government paying back the Social Security trust fund are arguing. The government reneging on its debts is a dangerous idea no matter who the debt is owed to. While it’d be great to stop giving taxpayer money to pay interest on the bonds owned by Pete Peterson and the Koch brothers, that’s not a choice available to the federal government and neither is ceasing to pay what is owed to Social Security.