(CNN) -- The nation's financial and economic crisis provided a stress test for the nation's public and private retirement system.
The 2009 Social Security Trustees report released Tuesday provides a basis for assessing how each held up. On the one hand, assets in 401(k) accounts -- which are predominantly in stocks -- have declined in value by about a third, employers are suspending matching contributions, and millions of unemployed workers have seen their retirement savings efforts disrupted.
On the other hand, the Social Security Administration continues to send out monthly checks to 35 million retirees and their spouses, 9 million disabled workers and their families, and 6 million families whose breadwinner has died. In other words, the government system has proved to be much less fragile than the private system of retirement savings.
Social Security did not escape totally unscathed, however. As firms laid off workers, payrolls and payroll tax revenues declined below levels that had been assumed in the previous report. This decline in revenues, together with some changes in assumptions about how long people will live, has accelerated the date when the trust fund is projected to be exhausted and has increased the deficit the system faces over the next 75 years.
We should all cut this out, put it in our pockets, and pull it out the next time anyone talks about privatizing Social Security!!