Social Security

August 14th marks the 80th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing into law the Social Security Act in 1935. The program has done much to alleviate poverty among senior citizens. Unfortunately, the system itself is showing its age. The Old Age and Survivors Insurance program (OASI, retirement benefits) is now running cash deficits as the baby boomers are retiring. The Disability Insurance program (DI) has been running deficits for several years, and is about to exhaust its trust fund. The recently released Trustees Report shows that only 93% of current OASI costs are covered by tax revenue, and that when the OASI trust fund runs out in 2034, benefits would have to be cut by more than 20% from projected levels. Longer term, OASI has a funding gap of four percent of payroll, meaning that would require more than a four percentage point rise in the payroll tax to bridge the funding gap over the next 75 years, or benefits would have to be reduced below promised levels by 27% by 2090.

The system’s ills have been driven in part by demographics, as the number of workers per retiree has been falling for decades. When the system was young, there were many workers paying into the system for each person drawing benefits. For example, there were 16.5 workers per OASDI beneficiary (retired and disabled workers combined) in 1950, as if each suburban block was supporting one retiree. Today, there are only 2.8 workers per OASDI beneficiary. By 2060, the ratio will be only 2 to 1, as if every two worker couple will be supporting someone’s grandmother in their attic.

The demographic challenge would be manageable except for the System’s formula for paying benefits. Currently, a worker’s lifetime earnings are averaged, after a wage growth adjustment, and a benefit formula is applied. The benefit formula, which sets the benefit a worker gets upon retirement, keeps benefits growing without limit over time in line with average wages (wage indexing). Over time, wages generally rise in real terms, that is, faster than prices. Under the current formula, benefits will rise in real terms too, to ever higher real levels. As workers earn more over the decades, but there are relatively fewer of them, it will impossible for the system to make ends meet. The benefit formula has put
benefits on autopilot, with a course set for a collision with the demographic mountain range ahead.

Thus, in 2090, a single average income earner would receive the equivalent of $47,927 in annual benefits in 2015 dollars, a median income couple with the 50% spousal benefit would receive $71,668 (the $47,927 with an extra 50% spousal benefit included), and a
two worker median income couple would receive $95,584 ($47,927 each). Upper income band couples with two workers could be getting annual benefits equal to $155,444 ($77,722 each) in 2015 dollars. Surely, some trimming of benefit growth could be done without injuring future age cohorts.

Adapted from www.forbes.com

Exercise 1

Find the words or expressions in the text which mean the following:

1) to make the effects of sth weaker: __________
2) politically correct for old people: __________
3) sb whose spouse died and he or she didn’t: __________
4) people born after World War II (1946 – app. 1964): __________
5) a person who stopped working due to old age: __________
6) not extreme: __________
7) the same amount: __________
8) a group of people of the same age: __________
9) happening every year: ___________
10)a range of people earning a particular salary: __________
11)to put sth in practice: __________
12)to receive money from the social security system: __________


Exercise 2

Match the expressions from the two columns into logical collocations:

1) to mark fund
2) to sign the funding gap
3) retirement benefits
4) to run challenge
5) a trust an anniversary
6) payroll benefits
7) to bridge tax
8) a demographic growth adjustment
9) wage cash deficits
10)spousal sth into law


Exercise 3

Provide English equivalents of these expressions:

1) przejść na emeryturę
2) wyczerpać coś
3) wpływy z podatków
4) punkt procentowy
5) beneficjent
6) możliwe do opanowania
7) oprócz
8) indeksacja płac
9) związać koniec z końcem
12)wymagać czegoś


Grammar corner…

The text started with this: August 14th marks the 80th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt signing into law the Social Security Act in 1935. What it means is that August 14th is the anniversary of the day on which President Roosevelt signed into law the SSA. But in order to avoid writing the whole sentence (by the whole sentence in grammar we mean a NOUN and a VERB, i.e. somebody does something),
we may shorten it by using the SB DOING STH structure, e.g. I remember that he was great at math turns into I remember him being great at math.


Exercise 4

Avoid using whole sentences (in grammatical terms …).

1) I can’t imagine a situation in which he gets up early and goes to work. =>
2) I saw him when he was stealing the money! =>
3) If you find yourself in a situation when you’re considering quitting your job, it’s probably time to do it. =>
4) I couldn’t stand the fact that he was singing all the time, so I told him to shut up. =>
5) I don’t mind the fact that you’re asking about my salary. =>



to alleviate sth – ulżyć czemuś
senior citizens – osoby w starszym wieku
a survivour – tu: wdowa / wdowiec
a retiree – emeryt(ka)
baby boomers – osoby urodzone w wyżu demograficznym po drugiej wojnie światowej
average – średni
an equivalent – równowartość
an age cohort – grupa wiekowa
an income band – przedział płacowy
to apply sth – zastosować coś
to draw benefits – pobierać świadczenia
August 14 marks the anniversary – 14 sierpnia przypada rocznica
retirement benefits – świadczenia emerytalne
to run cash deficits – cierpieć na brak gotówki
a trust fund – fundusz powierniczy
payroll tax – podatek od dochodów osobistych
to bridge the funding gap – wypełnić lukę w finansowaniu
a demographic challenge – wyzwanie demograficzne
wage growth adjustment – dostosowanie wysokości płac
spousal benefits – świadczenia dla małżonków
to retire – przejść na emeryturę
to exhaust sth – wyczerpać coś
tax revenue – wpływy z podatków
percentage point – punkt procentowy
a beneficiary – beneficjent
manageable – możliwe do opanowania
to make ends meet – związać koniec z końcem
median – mediana
relatively – względnie
to require sth – wymagać czegoś
the attic – strych
a block – przecznica (w miastach w USA)
due to – z powodu


download lesson (pdf)



Ex. 1
1) to alleviate sth
2) senior citizens
3) a survivour
4) baby boomers
5) a retiree
6) average
7) an equivalent
8) an age cohort
9) annual
10)an income band
11)to apply sth
12)to draw benefits

Ex. 2
1) to mark an anniversary
2) to sign sth into law
3) retirement benefits
4) to run cash deficits
5) a trust fund
6) payroll tax
7) to bridge the funding gap
8) a demographic challenge
9) wage growth adjustment
10)spousal benefits

Ex. 3
1) to retire
2) to exhaust sth
3) tax revenue
4) percentage point
5) a beneficiary
6) manageable
7) except for
8) wage indexing
9) to make ends meet
12) to require sth

Ex. 4
1) I can’t imagine him getting up early and going to work.
2) I saw him stealing the money!
3) If you find yourself considering quitting your job, it’s probably time to do it.
4) I couldn’t stand him singing so I told him to shut up.
5) I don’t mind you asking about my salary.