Lacy Crawford, [email protected]

Statement from Nancy Altman, Co-Founder of Social Security Works, on Time Magazine’s Debt Scaremongering

Time magazine’s current scaremongering and misleading cover exemplifies why the American people are fed up with elites.   Scary numbers, like the one on Time’s cover, are virtually never put in context.  And that is for a reason.  Those who use them are, knowingly or unwittingly, part of a misguided crusade.

The goal of the crusade is to drastically diminish or even eliminate the role of the federal government in improving the economic security and quality of life of working families, retirees, people with disabilities, and others.  The goal is to scare everyone into cutting domestic spending.  What is never said by those determined to cut domestic spending is that, as the richest nation on Earth at the richest moment in our history, we can afford our government. To what extent government should be funded through borrowing, rather than taxation, depends on the state of the economy, interest rates, and other complicated factors. But the size and activities of government are questions of values and choice, not economics.

The kind of alarmist cover Time is running is all too familiar to those of us who support Social Security.  Opponents of Social Security like to claim that Social Security has $25.7 trillion in so-called unfunded liability.  They never put that scary-sounding number in context.  They never mention, of course, that the number is calculated assuming Social Security is around for not just 50,000 more years, not just a million more years, but an infinite number of years from now.  They also never mention that the scary number is just 1.3 percent, when expressed in the context of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Instead of fearmongering and misleading, as part of a rear-guard action in the discredited effort to cut Social Security and other vital programs, Time’s readers would be better served if the magazine ran a cover illustrating the nation’s looming retirement crisis and the importance of expanding Social Security to address it.


Social Security Works is the lead group in the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition comprised of more than 350 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans from many of the nation’s leading aging, labor, disability, women’s, children, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations.