A CBS Evening News report on the White House economic conference (held December 15 and 16) misstated the facts about Social Security to suggest that the program will stop paying out benefits much sooner than it actually will. CBS showed an on-screen graphic with the text: "2042 Insolvent = 0 benefits??" suggesting that in 2042, the year in which Social Security's assets are projected to be exhausted, retirees will receive "0 benefits." But not even President Bush's Social Security Board of Trustees contends that the program's projected insolvency in 2042 would result in "0 benefits."
From the December 15 Evening News:
DAN RATHER (anchor): First, John Roberts, as you report on Social Security from the president's point of view.
JOHN ROBERTS (chief White House correspondent): Franklin Roosevelt's Social Security safety net is quickly developing huge financial holes. In 1935, the system was flush: 16 workers paid in for every one that drew retirement benefits. That ratio is now just a little more than three to one. By the time all the baby boomers have retired, [that ratio will be] just two to one. In 2042, Social Security will become insolvent, and today's young workers risk losing their benefits. President Bush wants to mend the holes.
But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the board estimated in the 2004 Report of the Board of Trustees of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds (OASDI): "Even if a trust fund's assets are exhausted, however, tax income will continue to flow into the fund. Present tax rates would be sufficient to pay 73 percent of scheduled benefits after trust fund exhaustion in 2042 and 68 percent of scheduled benefits in 2078." A June 2004 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security would become insolvent ten years later, in 2052, and also projected that benefits would continue to be paid well into the next century.