Morning Bell: Is Now Really the Time To Create a New $2.5 Trillion Entitlement?

Conn Carroll /

In theory, the federal government has $2.5 trillion stashed away in a nondescript office building in the sleepy little town of Parkersburg, West Virginia. That is where the Treasury Department keeps stacks of nonnegotiable Treasury bonds payable to the Social Security Administration. But as the Associated Press reported yesterday, for the first time since the 1980s, the federal government will not be adding to that stack. Thanks to an aging population and slow economy, Social Security will pay out $29 billion more this year than it takes in. And the Congressional Budget Office reports that after small surpluses in 2014 and 2015, the program is projected to be in the red from 2016 until forever.

But what about Al Gore’s Social Security “Lock Box?” Can’t we just spend that $2.5 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund? As Heritage experts David John and Brian Riedl explain, since 1939 federal law has required Social Security to “invest” its extra money in Treasury bonds. Those bonds are really just IOUs from the government to the government. The feds already spent that $2.5 trillion long ago on programs such as education, foreign aid and defense. Add the $2.5 trillion Social Security obligation onto our other obligations and our current national debt¬† stands at $12.5 trillion, or nearly $42,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. And it will only get worse under President Barack Obama’s Budget. It would: 1) borrow 42 cents for each dollar spent in 2010; 2) leave permanent annual deficits that top $1 trillion as late as 2020;¬† and 3) dump an additional $74,000 per household of debt into the laps of our children and grandchildren. (more…)