Judging by recent trends, the Social Security surplus won't be alleviating the government's budgetary woes as much as experts had expected. Robert Marks of som Economics Inc. notes that actual surpluses in recent years have been falling increasingly short of official projections "due to slower revenue growth and faster gains in outlays."
In fiscal 1991, for example, the surplus was $10 billion below the level projected by the Congressional Budget Office last January and $22 billion below the level projected in early 1990. And in the current fiscal year, Marks thinks the surplus will come in $20 billion below the cbo's projection last January. The rub is that each shortfall contributes to the following year's shortfall because trust-fund assets and the interest earnings they generate rise more slowly than projected. Thus, Marks expects fiscal 1995's Social Security surplus to come in as much as $50 billion below the $128 billion projected by the cbo just 20 months ago.