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....There was a surplus for decades, but instead of investing the money, it was used to pay for other government expenditures


To be fair, the surplus was, and still is, 'invested'. They are invested in instruments similar to treasury bonds. For 2015, the annual effective interest rate earned by the trust fund was 3.37%.

https://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/fundFAQ.html#&a0=2



From the link's Q&A Section:

Were the assets of the Social Security Trust Funds depleted in the past?

The assets of the larger trust fund (OASI), from which retirement benefits are paid, were nearly depleted in 1982. No beneficiary was shortchanged because the Congress enacted temporary emergency legislation that permitted borrowing from other Federal trust funds and then later enacted legislation to strengthen OASI Trust Fund financing.


So, the people who were due benefits still got them, but they were paid with borrowed money.
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