Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes this year and next, the first time that's happened since the 1980s -- and a sure sign the recession has sunk deep into the government's pockets.
Thanks to big job losses and a huge spike in early retirement, more seniors than ever will be dipping into the Social Security pool over the next few years, Social Security officials said. The number of applications for retirement benefits has ballooned 23 percent this year, while disability claims have risen by about 20 percent, the officials said.
"A lot of people who in better times would have continued working are opting to retire," said Alan J. Auerbach, an economic and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Social Security is projected to start generating surpluses again in 2012.
Get more: The Associated Press