Social Security, Generational Justice, and Long-Term Deficits
52 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2005 Last revised: 10 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 9, 2010
This paper assesses current methods for evaluating the long-term viability and desirability of government activities, especially Social Security and other big-ticket budget items. I reach four conclusions: (1) There are several simple ways to improve the current debate about fiscal policy by adjusting our crude deficit measures, improvements which ought not to be controversial; (2) separately measuring Social Security's long-term balance is inappropriate and misleading; (3) the methods available to measure very long-term government financing (Fiscal Gaps and their cousins, Generational Accounts) are of very limited value in setting public policy today, principally because there is no reliable baseline of the government's likely future expenditures and receipts; and therefore (4) the government's current annual and 10-year deficit projections, while highly imperfect, are nonetheless the best measure available for assessing fiscal policy, especially compared with Fiscal Gaps and Generational Accounts.
Keywords: Deficits, National Debt, Generational Accounting, Fiscal Gap
JEL Classification: E60, E62, H50, H55, H60, H61, H62, H63
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation