Social Security's study showed that because of inflation only the benefits of very high-paid single workers (those in the top 10% of all workers ages 60 to 64) would equal Social Security 20 years after retirement.
Married workers, who would want to spread out their payouts to cover their spouses' lives, would receive much lower benefits than under Social Security to begin with, and then would be reamed by inflation.
And families with young children at the time of an early death of the breadwinner would do much better under Social Security.
That finding gives the lie, to use Perry's term, to his claim in a recent interview that it's impossible to defend Social Security "to a 27-year-old young man who's just gotten married and is trying to get his life headed in the right direction economically." Here's the defense: If he dies young, Social Security will save his family from poverty.
Such inconvenient facts haven't kept Perry from retailing his vision of Social Security with all the cocksure ignorance of a talk show host.
Even before launching his run for the GOP presidential nomination, he showed all the understanding of this vital program that an 8-year-old has for quantum mechanics.
"By any measure, Social Security is a failure," he states in his book, then congratulates himself for his "courage" for making what is, through and through, a fatuous misstatement.
Failure? Tell that to the 54 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits today. For two-thirds of Americans over 65, the program provides half or more of their income. And for more than a third it accounts for 90% of their income — all this with a rock-bottom administrative cost and a scandal-free history.
Perry continues to roll out the malarkey. Last week in an op-ed commentary in USA Today, he offered the "hard fact" that "by 2037, retirees will only get 76 cents of every dollar that is put into Social Security unless reforms are implemented."
Well, no. This appears to be a braiding of several strings of misunderstandings and misrepresentations. At its core is the program's projection that barring some minor fiscal tweaks, sometime around 2036 the program may have only enough money to pay 77% of currently scheduled benefits.
That's not at all the same as how much of their contributed dollar retirees or their families will get back in benefits, which is affected much more by such factors as how long they live in retirement and the number and age of their dependents. Some people will get less than they contributed, some people will get many multiples of what they (or their parents or spouses) contributed.
That's the nature of social insurance programs like Social Security — indeed, any insurance. If you know at the age of 20 how long you'll collect Social Security after you're 65, congratulations: You're a god. But programs like Social Security are, thankfully, designed for us poor mortals.
Michael Hiltzik's column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. His latest book is "The New Deal: A Modern History." Reach him at email@example.com, read past columns at latimes.com/hiltzik, check out facebook.com/hiltzik and follow @latimeshiltzik on Twitter.