In Remembrance of Harry Clay Ballantyne

I was saddened to learn that Harry Clay Ballantyne, who led the Office of the Actuary at the Social Security Administration, recently passed away. Harry was an exemplary civil servant and private citizen. Long after his retirement, he co-authored an EPI report dispelling the myth that Social Security, which must operate in long-term balance, was driving our nation into debt. Although he was in weakening health, he was determined to defend the program he had devoted his career to. And though he was not the type to flaunt his achievements, an important part of the story was that Social Security’s actuaries, far from being taken by surprise by the Baby Boomer retirement, increases in life expectancy, and other supposedly calamitous demographic trends that critics liked to suggest had crashed the system, had accurately predicted them years ago and dealt with them. What no one inside or outside Social Security had predicted was that wage stagnation, rising inequality, and the Great Recession would erode the program’s funding—problems that suggest entirely different solutions.