Kevin Drum explains Social Security to those who, somewhat bizarrely, are convinced that it won't be around when they retire. His catch is of a comment by the Economist's Erica Grieder, but I agree that it's a very widespread believe people have. Via The Polling Report, CNN polling last summer found a majority of 60% who do not expect Social Security to "be able to pay a benefit when you retire," and other polling going back to the Clinton administration found slim majorities or pluralities who believed some variation of that, although not surprisingly the answer seems to depend on the wording of the question.
Note too that Grieder calls Social Security a "pyramid scheme," which is also common usage and also totally wrong. Social Security, of course, has survived just fine for about 75 years, and according to projections will, as Drum points out, do just fine for the next 75 years. Yes, there's a projected gap between income and outflow, but it's not all that large in the grand scheme of things, and more to the point the projected gap is as Drum explain stable, not spiraling upwards (as, say, Medicare is scheduled to do). There are, of course, no pyramid schemes that survive for 75 years and then project to be stable for the next 75.
I'll note that I don't know whether people hold similarly pessimistic opinions about other things that might be similar, or perhaps if there's something in the question wording that elicits that kind of answer, but that wouldn't really account for Grieder's post.
Anyway: nice catch! And a very useful post.