Social Security isn't the only cause of America's fiscal problems, but it is Exhibit A in why it is so hard to fix them. No serious solution to our debt can ignore a program that will tax and spend about 4.8 percent of GDP this year and account for about 20 percent of all federal spending -- and that within a few decades will count almost a third of the population as beneficiaries. But whenever I write about Social Security here at CBS MoneyWatch, I'm always struck by how much disagreement there is about how the system really works.
A handful of misconceptions tend to crop up repeatedly-often having to do with that fiscal fun-house mirror, the Social Security trust fund. And despite the efforts of writers like Allan Sloan and experts like the Urban Institute's Eugene Steuerle, the myths won't die. This column won't kill them either, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't take a whack. Here goes: