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Trustees Report- 1996
B. LONG-RANGE ESTIMATES OF SOCIAL SECURITY TRUST FUND OPERATIONS IN DOLLARSThis appendix presents long-range projections in dollars of the operations of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds and in some cases the HI Trust Fund. It provides the means to track the progress of the funds during the projection period. Meaningful comparison of current dollar values over long periods of time can be difficult because of the tendency toward inflation. Some means of removing inflation is thus generally desirable. Several economic series, or "indices," are provided to allow current dollars to be adjusted for changes in prices, wages, and certain other aspects of economic growth during the projection period.
The selection of a particular index for adjustment of current dollars depends upon the analyst's decision as to which index provides the most useful standard for adjusting dollar amounts, over time, to create values that are appropriately comparable. Table III.B1 presents five such indices for adjustment.
One of the most common forms of standardization is based on some measure of change in the prices of consumer goods. One such price index is the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W, hereafter referred to as "CPI") which is published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor. This is the index used to determine annual increases in OASDI monthly benefits payable after the year of initial eligibility. The CPI is assumed to increase ultimately at annual rates of 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 percent for the low cost, intermediate, and high cost sets of assumptions (alternatives I, II, and III, respectively). Constant-dollar values (those adjusted by the CPI) are provided in table III.B2.
Another type of standardization combines the effects of price inflation and real-wage growth. The wage index presented here is the "SSA average wage index," as defined in section 215(i)(1)(G) of the Social Security Act. This index is used to make annual adjustments to many earnings-related quantities embodied in the Social Security Act, such as the contribution and benefit base. The average annual wage is assumed to increase ultimately by 4.5, 5.0, and 5.5 percent under the low cost, intermediate, and high cost alternatives (I, II, and III), respectively.
The taxable payroll index adjusts for the effects of changes in the number of workers and changes in the proportion of earnings that are taxable, as well as for the effects of price inflation and real-wage growth. The OASDI taxable payroll consists of all earnings subject to OASDI taxation, adjusted for the lower effective tax rate on multiple-employer "excess wages," and including deemed wage credits for military service.
The gross domestic product (GDP) index adjusts for the growth in the aggregate amount of goods and services produced in the United States. Values adjusted by GDP (see appendix C) indicate their relative share of the total output of the economy. No explicit assumptions are made about growth in taxable payroll or GDP. These series are computed reflecting the other more basic economic and demographic assumptions, as discussed in section II.H.
Discounting with interest is another way of adjusting current dollars. The series of interest-rate factors included here is based on the average of the assumed annual interest rates for special public-debt obligations issuable to the trust funds. This series is slightly different from the interest rates used to create summarized values elsewhere in this report, where the actual yield on currently held trust fund assets is used for each year. Ultimate nominal interest rates, compounded semiannually, are assumed to be approximately 6.0, 6.3, and 6.5 percent for the low cost, intermediate, and high cost alternatives (I, II, and III), respectively.
Table III.B2 shows estimated operations of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds in constant 1996 dollars (i.e., adjusted by the CPI indexing series as discussed above). Items included in the table are: income excluding interest, interest income, total income, total outgo, and assets at the end of the year. Income excluding interest consists of payroll-tax contributions, income from taxation of benefits, and miscellaneous reimbursements from the general fund of the Treasury. Outgo consists of benefit payments, administrative expenses, net transfers from the OASI and DI Trust Funds to the Railroad Retirement program under the financial-interchange provisions, and payments for vocational rehabilitation services for disabled beneficiaries. These estimates are based on the low cost, intermediate, and high cost sets of assumptions (alternatives I, II, and III).
Figure III.B1 provides a comparison of outgo with total annual income (including interest) and annual income excluding interest, for the OASDI program under intermediate assumptions. All values are expressed in constant dollars, as shown in table III.B2. The difference between the income values for each year is equal to the trust fund interest earnings. Thus the figure illustrates the fact that, under intermediate assumptions, combined OASDI expenditures will be payable from (1) current tax income alone through 2011, (2) current tax income plus a portion of annual interest income for years 2012 through 2018, and (3) current tax income, annual interest income, plus a portion of the principal balance in the trust funds for years 2019 through 2028, i.e., through the year preceding the year of trust fund exhaustion.
Table III.B3 shows estimated operations of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds in current dollars - that is in dollars unadjusted for price inflation. Items included in the table are: income excluding interest, interest income, total income, total outgo, and assets at the end of the year. These estimates, based on the low cost, intermediate, and high cost sets of economic and demographic assumptions (I, II, and III), are presented to facilitate independent analysis.
Table III.B4 shows estimated income (excluding interest) and estimated total outgo (excluding the cost of accumulating target trust fund balances) of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds, of the HI Trust Fund, and of the combined OASI, DI, and HI Trust Funds, based on the low cost, intermediate, and high cost sets of assumptions (alternatives I, II, and III) described earlier in this report. For OASDI, income excluding interest consists of payroll-tax contributions, proceeds from taxation of OASDI benefits, and miscellaneous transfers from the general fund of the Treasury. Outgo consists of benefit payments, administrative expenses, net transfers from the trust funds to the Railroad Retirement program, and payments for vocational rehabilitation services for disabled beneficiaries. For HI, income excluding interest consists of contributions (including contributions from railroad employment), proceeds from the taxation of OASDI benefits, and payments from the general fund of the Treasury for contributions on deemed wage credits for military service. Total outgo consists of outlays (benefits and administrative expenses) for insured beneficiaries. Income and outgo estimates are shown on a cash basis for the OASDI program and on an incurred basis for the HI program.
Table III.B4 also shows the difference between income excluding interest and outgo, which is called the balance. The balance indicates the size of the net cash flow from tax income and expenditures to the funds.
Table III.B5 shows estimated future benefit amounts payable to persons attaining age 65 in various years based on retirement at the normal retirement age and at age 65, for various steady levels of pre-retirement earnings, based on intermediate assumptions. The benefit amount is shown in current dollars, constant dollars (adjusted by the CPI indexing series shown in table III.B1), and as a percentage of earnings in the 12-month period preceding retirement. The normal retirement age is currently 65 and is scheduled to increase to age 66 during the period 2000-05 (at a rate of 2 months per year as workers attain age 62) and to age 67 during the period 2017-22 (also by 2 months per year as workers attain age 62). The pre-retirement earnings levels shown are: low (earnings at 45 percent of the projected SSA average wage index), average (earnings at the amount of the projected SSA average wage index), and maximum (earnings at the amount of the projected OASDI contribution and benefit base).