Sunday, November 06, 2016

There Are Social Security Solutions The Public Supports

(This cartoon image is by Barry Deutsch at

We haven't heard much from the Republicans about Social Security in this campaign. There's a reason for that. They have never liked Social Security, and their only ideas to fix its funding problem is to privatize it, cut benefits, or raise the retirement age significantly -- all bad ideas that would hurt seniors.

On the other hand, the Democrats (and their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton) would do none of the GOP options. They want to raise the cap on income taxed for Social Security, increase benefits for those drawing the least in monthly payments, and keep the retirement age where it is (so those who work hard at physical labor are not punished).

What does the general public think? Are there ways to fix Social Security's future funding problem that would not incur the wrath of seniors and other voters? Stephen Kull has written an excellent article about this for The Huffington Post. In it, he shows us that there are solutions that would be supported by a huge majority of the general public. Here is some of that article:

Results from a new survey of more than 8,600 registered voters across the country, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, suggest that a large majority of Americans are ready for a plan that would deal with most, if not all, of the Social Security shortfall, if the problem and the possible remedies are clearly presented to them.
This survey, called a Citizen Cabinet survey, was unique. Respondents went through a “policymaking simulation” in which they were briefed on the Social Security program and told about the looming shortfall and its causes — the declining number of workers per retiree and the fact that Americans are living longer.
They were then presented a series of options for dealing with the expected shortfall, together with strongly stated arguments for and against each option and information about the effect of each one on the shortfall. The content was vetted, in advance, for accuracy and balance by Republican and Democratic congressional staffers as well as experts at the liberal National Academy for Social Insurance and the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
The pro and con arguments were full-throated. Besides hearing about the negative consequences of possible benefit cuts, they heard such arguments as that increasing the retirement age would be hard on people who do manual labor and that raising taxes could hurt the economy. Indeed, in almost every case, majorities found both the pro and con arguments convincing.
But in the end, large majorities from both parties agreed on four steps that would resolve at least two-thirds of the projected shortfall:
1. Tax more income.
Raising the cap on income subject to the payroll from the current $118,000 to $215,000 was the most popular option. Fully 88 percent of respondents supported this nationally, including 84 percent of Republicans and 92 percent of Democrats.

2. Increase the Social Security tax.

But they were not only looking to raise taxes on the wealthy. Seventy-six percent also approved of raising the payroll tax from 6.2 to 6.6 percent (72 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Democrats). That step would affect even low-income workers more dramatically than those with higher incomes.

3. Reduce benefits to top earners. 

Reducing benefits for the top 25 percent of lifetime earners received 76 percent support, including 72 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats.
4. Increase the retirement age. 
Here, too, they favored what would be, in effect, a cut in benefits that would affect all future retirees: gradually raising the retirement age to 68 years old. This step elicited 79 percent approval (81 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Democrats).
These four steps would eliminate 66 percent of the shortfall.
In addition, 59 percent went further, saying they would support eliminating the cap on taxable earnings entirely. Together with these other steps, the removal of the cap would completely resolve the shortfall. Even 54 percent of Republicans said they were willing to take this dramatic step, as did 64 percent of Democrats.

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