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Category Archives: Congress

Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?

CRS Report – RL33514| Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?: “Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and undercurrent law, the Social Security trustees project that the OASI trust fund will become depleted in 2034 and the DI trust fund will not become depleted in the 75-year projection period. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in 2035 (under different assumptions and projection methods, the Congressional Budget Office projected in 2021 that the combined trust funds will become insolvent in 2032). At that point, the combined trust funds would become insolvent, because incoming tax revenue would be sufficient to pay only about 80% of scheduled benefits. Insolvency does not mean that Social Security will be completely broke and unable to pay any benefits. The 2022 intermediate assumptions reflect the trustees’ understanding of the status of the Social Security trust funds at the start of 2022. The 2022 estimates include potential effects of COVID-19. Although the report includes impacts from COVID-19, the impacts are confined to the near term. The trustees acknowledge that effects from the pandemic, especially in the long term, are subject to a high level of uncertainty. If a trust fund became depleted and current receipts were insufficient to cover current expenditures, there would be a conflict between two federal laws. Under the Social Security Act, beneficiaries would still be legally entitled to their full scheduled benefits. However, the Antideficiency Act prohibits government spending in excess of available funds,so the Social Security Administration (SSA) would not have legal authority to pay full Social Security benefits on time.It is unclear what specific actions SSA would take if a trust fund were insolvent. After depletion, the trust funds would continue to receive tax revenues, from which a majority of scheduled benefits could be paid. One option would be to pay full benefits on a delayed schedule; another would be to make timely but reduced payments. Social Security beneficiaries would remain legally entitled to full, timely benefits and could take legal action to claim the balance of their benefits.Maintaining financial balance after trust fund insolvency would require substantial reductions in Social Security benefits, substantial increases in tax revenues, or some combination of the two. The trustees project that following depletion of the combined funds in 2035, Congress could restore balance by immediately reducing scheduled benefits by about 20%; the required reduction would grow gradually to 26% by 2096. An alternative could be for Congress to raise the Social Security payroll tax rate from 12.4% to 15.6% following depletion in 2035, then gradually increase it to 16.7% by 2095. Trust-fund insolvency could be avoided if expenditures were reduced or receipts increased sufficiently. The sooner adjustment to Social Security policy is undertaken, the less abrupt the changes would need to be, because they could be spread over a longer period and would therefore affect a larger number of workers and beneficiaries. As well, enacting adjustment to Social Security policy sooner, rather than later,would give workers and beneficiaries more time to plan and adjust their work and savings behavior.”

Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience

GAO – Climate Change: Enhancing Federal Resilience GAO-22-106061 Published: Sep 19, 2022. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2022. “Between fiscal years 2015 and 2021, selected appropriations for disaster assistance totaled $315 billion. Disaster costs are projected to increase as certain extreme weather events like drought or extreme rainfall become more frequent and intense because of climate… Continue Reading

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: CRS Products

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: CRS Products, September 20, 2022: “…CRS selected its products below by searching CRS.gov using the terms climate and greenhouse gas and through discussion with CRS subject matter experts. Products were selected from the search results and included here if they met the search criteria, contained substantial discussion of GHG mitigation, and have… Continue Reading

US politicians tweet far more misinformation than those in the UK and Germany

The Conversation: “Politicians from mainstream parties in the UK and Germany post far fewer links to untrustworthy websites on Twitter and this has remained constant since 2016, according to our new research. By contrast, US politicians posted a much higher percentage of untrustworthy content in their tweets, and that share has been increasing steeply since… Continue Reading

CREW urges Judicial Conference to implement judicial ethics rules

CREW: “The Judicial Conference—a national policymaking body for the federal courts…should implement a comprehensive prohibition on all federal judges and Supreme Court Justices owning or trading individual securities and develop a strong code of conduct for the Supreme Court. In a letter sent [September 20, 2022], CREW urges the Judicial Conference to act swiftly to… Continue Reading

How Social Media Sites Have Amplified False Claims of U.S. Election Fraud

NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights: “As the 2022 midterms approach, falsehoods about election fraud continue to spread via social media. The Big Lie that Joseph Biden did not legitimately win the presidency in 2020 has mutated into a forward-looking belief among many Republicans that American democracy more generally no longer functions fairly.… Continue Reading

January 6th on the Record: The Investigation into the Attack on the U.S. Capitol

Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) “is pleased to announce the release of January 6th on the Record: The Investigation into the Attack on the U.S. Capitol, a free ebook compendium of materials related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the subsequent hearings held by the House Select Committee investigating the attack. At… Continue Reading

The Supreme Court’s new term could be even more consequential than its last one

Vox – The Republican justices who overruled Roe v. Wade are only getting started. “The headline of this piece is likely to turn a few heads. The Supreme Court’s last term, after all, was an orgy of conservative excess unlike any since the Court’s Great Depression-era attacks on the New Deal. And it culminated in… Continue Reading

Study: Americans Own More Than 415 Million Firearms

English, William, 2021 National Firearms Survey: Updated Analysis Including Types of Firearms Owned (May 13, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4109494 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4109494 “This report summarizes the findings of a national survey of firearms ownership and use conducted between February 17th and March 23rd, 2021 by the professional survey firm Centiment. This survey, which is part… Continue Reading

House GOP Agenda Signals Push for Social Security and Medicare Cuts

Common Dreams – “House Republicans on [September 21, 2022] unveiled parts of a policy agenda that indicates the party would push for cuts to Social Security and Medicare if it retakes the majority in November. A one-page summary of the agenda that House Republicans, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), are expected to formally… Continue Reading

Injection and Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide: Federal Role and Issues for Congress

CRS Report – Injection and Geologic Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide: Federal Role and Issues for Congress, September 22, 2022: “For several decades, the federal government has funded efforts to explore the feasibility of mitigating the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) while burning fossil fuels as a source of energy. Carbon capture and storage (CCS)—the process… Continue Reading

U.S. Agencies Are Buying Access to Bulk Internet Records

Gizmodo – “Sen. Ron Wyden urged inspectors general at three departments to investigate the military’s purchases of large swaths of data: “Multiple military intelligence offices have paid a data broker for access to internet traffic logs, which could reveal the online browsing histories of U.S. citizens, Sen. Ron Wyden said in a letter Wednesday, citing… Continue Reading