This is something to look back on every now and then, what with a good deal of corporate America trying to convince everyone that the US is “bankrupt,” which can’t happen, or at least that there’s almost no wealth left in the nation. It can sure feel that way on ground-level, which is why it’s important to look at the macro.
Here’s the history of per person GDP – goods and services produced in the US, divided by population. The long-term story here is that American workers are producing more wealth per person than ever before (because they’re more efficient for various reasons), with a little dip at the end representing the Great Recession (GDP is up since 2009, by the way).
So when someone says we could afford Social Security, etc., back when per person GDP was $15,000 per person, but not now even though per person GDP is over $40,000, they’re basically saying that we could afford something when we were poor, but not now that we’re a lot richer.