Originally Posted by Khufu
That's an unrealistic standard. A perfect balance between revenue and payout can't work where one cohort, e.g. the Baby Boomers, is larger than the cohort that follows it. That is why the Greenspan Commission created the Trust Fund in 1983 to build up reserves to pay the increased claims that were certain to occur when the Boomers retired.
The idea that the Trust Fund has disappeared somehow is another bit of naivete. If the Trust Fund were not invested in US Treasuries (which are regarded by the global bond market as the safest securities in the world), the Treasury would simply have sold more bonds on the open market. The Treasury is paying interest on the entire $2.7 trillion to the Trust Fund now and will continue to do so. When Trust Fund bonds mature they will be rolled over into new bonds just like all the other Treasury bonds.
It is not even certain that the Trust Fund will ever be depleted as was intended from its creation. If the US GDP manages to grow in the future at the average post-war rate, payroll tax increases will be sufficient that the Trust Fund will not be depleted in the 75 year look-ahead window that is common used.
Sure it can work - we just adjust the benefits or taxes to make it work.
The WWII generation had 3 children per couple. Their children, the Boomers, had 2. The Boomers' kids will have more trouble paying for the Boomers retirement than the Boomers had paying for the WWII generation's retirement. Something needs to give.
What can't work is the idea that an entire economy the size of the US can "save" for retirement spending. Goods and services consumed by retirees are mostly produced in the year they are consumed. That was one of the good comments in the OP article. One individual can save more than another, and end up with a relatively better retirement. But, the entire economy can't save (at least if retirement income is indexed). The retirement puzzle is how to allocate economic goods between active workers who produce them and former workers who are no longer productive.
Re the trust fund "disappearing", I'd say that since the federal gov't reports on a "unified" budget, the past surpluses of SS taxes over SS benefits gave politicians and voters the sense that they could have lower Federal Income Taxes and/or higher general fund spending. In practice, the SS surpluses didn't reduce borrowing, they reduced general fund taxes and/or increased general fund spending.