Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

NJ.com readers offer mixed reactions to Paul Mulshine’s column on Social Security

Conservative activist Steve Lonegan recently claimed that New Jerseyans were facing the highest tolls in the nation.
Conservative activist Steve Lonegan recently claimed that New Jerseyans were facing the highest tolls in the nation.

PolitiFact New Jersey loves nothing more than when our rulings can spur a healthy political debate.

That’s exactly what occurred this week after Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine offered his opinion of our recent ruling dealing with the Social Security system. We gave conservative activist Steve Lonegan a False for claiming the federal program was "broke."

Mulshine disagreed and posted a column on NJ.com Tuesday explaining his reasoning. But we thought we’d take a minute to showcase the diverse comments made in response to Mulshine’s column.

Here’s a couple of comments from readers who argue that Social Security is broke.

A user named MadinNJ wrote: "It's amazing that so few are telling this story like it is . . . . Social Security is both a Ponzi Scheme, and Broke. For years the Federal government has been taking the excess cash flow and using it in place of additional borrowing. That's why the Federal deficit/debt has never been an accurate number. Now, with SS and Medicare in the Red, the Federal government will have to go to places like China to borrow the money to continue to pay 100% of the benefits promised."

engineernj added these comments: "The fact is that 'the person' described here wrote himself I.O.U.s, and writes himself I.O.U.s for the interest. The U.S government took the money, and gave Social Security some I.O.U.s. Yes it's broke, and yes the paper reeks of liberal bias."

Now, here are two examples of readers who agreed with PolitiFact New Jersey’s ruling.

Tjwoods had this to say: "I do challenge Mr. Mulshine's and Mr. Lonegan's use of the word "broke" to describe Social Security. Mr. Mulshine, as a writer (and a good one, in my opinion), surely respects the principle that words should mean what they say and say what they mean. In every dictionary I checked, "broke" is defined as "to have no money" or "to be unable to pay your bills". I think that sounds like how most of us would use that word. Under that definition, Social Security will not be broke for another half century. If my friend loses his job, and therefore his current income, but he has a million bucks in the bank and is still paying his bills: he ain't broke."

cchuba wrote: "I hate to say it but Politifact is correct. It is true that the social security trust fund is running at a deficit but that is not the same thing as being broke. The social security trust fund has about $2.5T; it is already counted as part of the debt ceiling. So if we cash out the trust fund and issue the equivalent new bonds to the Chinese it will have a net zero impact on our current debt because one debt is retired as the other is increased."

For the full scope of comments, check out Mulshine’s column and then maybe you’d like to join the debate as well.

To read our original ruling on Lonegan's claim, go here.