Is Social Security Broke?

A Cartoon Guide to the Issues
Barbara R. Bergmann and Jim Bush
An entertaining introduction—using cartoons and clear explanations—to the issues everyone should know about Social Security


A funny, smart, and engaging book on Social Security? You bet! Let Bill and Betty Boomer, their parents Ed and Ethel Elderly, and the young married Steve and Sue Sprout take you through the thickets of this thorny issue. You will come to understand why people are so worried about Social Security, how it operates, how we can keep it going, the problems we would face under a privatized system, and why Americans have always chosen to shore up this important program. You will learn about the system and the current debates surrounding it—and find yourself enjoying it at the same time.

Grandma's Bake Sale

Feel free to take a look at some of the cartoons printed in the book.

Seven Good Reasons Not to Privatize Social Security

  1. Stocks can fall disastrously (view image)
  2. Private pensions lack protection from inflation (view image)
  3. Not everybody would avoid investment pitfalls (view image)
  4. Government investment might bring interference (view image)
  5. A private system can drain off money for big fees (view image)
  6. Young workers would have a double burden (view image)
  7. Huge Social Security funds moving in and out of the market could destabilize it (view image)

Barbara R. Bergmann is Professor Emerita, University of Maryland and The American University. Jim Bush is the editorial cartoonist for the Providence Journal.

Praise / Awards

  • "When I was leaving government two years ago, I actually thought about writing a book on Social Security very much like this one. Many people are baffled about the Social Security debate and would welcome an appealing paperback that addressed the issues in an amusing and understandable fashion."
    —Alicia H. Munnell, Boston College
  • "Social Security is not broke and this brilliantly crafted picture book will explain why not."
    —James K. Galbraith, University of Texas, Austin, and author of Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay
  • "Barbara Bergmann and Jim Bush explode the myth that the Social Security debate is too complex for the average Joe—or, in this case, Bill and Betty Boomer—to understand. With a vivid and imaginative combination of words and pictures, Is Social Security Broke? gets to the heart of the matter and reveals what is at stake for all Americans. The message is straightforward and clear: With the political will to do so, Social Security can—and should—be saved."
    —Richard Leone, The Century Foundation
  • "[A] decidedly progressive but largely well-balanced view of the concerns surrounding Social Security. . . . The compact text offers straight talk on such concerns as whether Social Security's assets will run out before readers live to 100, and humorous twists such as 'Congress can raise the age of retirement, but they can't raise the age at which people develop arthritis.' The book concisely addresses the real problems of the program's long-term funding shortfall by discussing prudent options for adjusting taxes and benefits and choices that could be made now with a minimum of pain—and no panic. It also asks, wryly, what might happen to a privatized Social Security system were the U.S. stock market to slide for nine years, as has the Japanese market. . . . [A] welcome contribution to the Social Security debate."
    —Paul Kleyman, Aging Today, November/December 2000
  • "Here's everything you wanted to know about the issues surrounding Social Security in black and white—pictures, that is."
    —Fran Stewart, Plain Dealer (Cleveland), October 9, 2000
  • "Here's everything you wanted to know about the issues surrounding Social Security in black and white. . . . a simple, easy to grasp explanation of the funding crunch that looms when baby boomers start to retire."
    —Fran Stewart, Newhouse News Service, Plain Dealer (Cleveland); Gazette (Kalamazoo), October 9, 2000; October 28, 2000

Look Inside

Table of Contents

  • Lots of people are worried about Social Security, p.1
  • How Social Security operates and why it will never go bankrupt, p.8
  • The problem of the Boomers' retirement costs, p.20
  • How we can keep Social Security going, p.26
  • Who is spreading the bankruptcy scare talk and why, p.44
  • What a privatized system would look like, p.56
  • Replacing Social Security with private accounts would create some big problems, p.60
  • Using the surplus to "save Social Security", p.74
  • When should we act to balance out the Social Security taxes and benefits?, p.76
  • Common objections to Social Security and answers to them, p.88
  • Americans have always chosen to shore up Social Security, p.94
  • For further reading, p.99

Product Details

  • 8 x 8.
  • 112pp.
  • 53 drawings.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09743-2

Add to Cart
  • $74.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06743-5

Add to Cart
  • $18.95 U.S.

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