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Fact Check Friday: Entitlements

Social Security Administration (file / credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Social Security Administration (file / credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It’s Fact Check Friday again on WCBS 880, where, with the help of factcheck.org, a nonpartisan non-profit part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, we get to the truth.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot Checks The Facts

Today, the issue is entitlements, including Social Security, as Washington seems to gets religion, as it where, on spending.

WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot asked factcheck.org researcher Eugene Kiley if it’s really possible, as Democrats prefer, to balance the books without cutting the big three entitlements – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

“Well, there are going to need to be some changes. It’s just mathematically impossible over the long term not to deal with them. Those three – Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – they’re going to consume 55 percent of all federal spending by just 2022, just 10 years from now,” Kiley said. “The President himself some unspecified cuts in future Medicare spending of $400 billion over 10 years. We don’t know where that’s going to come from [at] this point and that’s just the subject of negotiation between the White House and Congress. But he at least has put a number to it.”

So, would President Barack Obama’s $400 billion number actually put a dent in the problem.

“Well, it does do what they want to do for now, which is to get enough combination of cuts and tax increases in order to prevent these automatic spending cuts to take effect. This is just for getting by the ‘fiscal cliff‘ for right now,” Kiley said.

Most Democrats really don’t want to touch Social Security. They don’t even want to think about that.

“We are not going to cut Social Security, which, by the way, as Harry Reid just reminded us, has nothing to do with the deficit,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who while a listed independent, caucuses with the Democrats, speaking on MSNBC.

So, true or false – Social Security is self-sustaining and does not add to the deficit?

“False for right now,” Kiley said. “Because what’s happened with Social Security is, yes, it is a pay as you go program. There’s money that comes in through the payroll taxes and there’s money that goes out to the beneficiaries. Since 2010, there hasn’t been enough tax revenue to pay those benefits. So, as a result, the Social Security trust funds have had to dip into their reserves funded by Treasury security bonds. So, the Treasury has to borrow money to provide Social Security with the funding it needs to pay its benefits.”

Check back next week for another edition of Fact Check Friday.