A Reasonable Suggestion Regarding Social Security

Nov 8th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Social Security & Medicare

Richard Eskow, writing on Campaign for America’s Future, asks a pertinent question that all politicians need to address on behalf of senior citizens across the country:

“Can’t we stop characterizing one another and discuss the issues in a thoughtful and collegial manner? I’ll accept a portion of the blame for being excessively “strident” in the past. So let’s start again, collegially and respectfully, by concentrating on the issues and not the personalities.”

One of the proposals on the table for insuring the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund is to remove the earnings cap on payroll taxes.  It is currently at the $106k mark, which means that people making more than $106,800 do so free from Social Security taxes.  The idea is supported by people, pundits and politicians from all persuasions.  Here are references for documentation purposes:

It makes no sense to SCJ Editors to reduce benefits to seniors, most of whom live on Social Security Benefits alone.  Suggestions for reducing benefits include raising retirement age, cutting back on cost of living increases and scaling back benefit amounts themselves.  Those who have both Social Security benefits and a pension would be less affected, but would nonetheless feel the pinch.

Eskow’s article goes on to make this point:

“It’s a well-established management principle: Don’t do something radical until you’ve proven conclusively that more judicious solutions won’t work.

“…criticism of plans to cut Social Security is not restricted to the left. Polls like this one, commissioned by the Campaign for America’s Future and the Democracy Corps

  1. show that voters of all political preferences would rather see taxes increased than see cuts to Social Security. This isn’t just true of Democrats and Independents. Only 11% of Republicans polled would “strongly favor” cutting benefits to reduce the deficit, while 52% of Republicans strongly oppose cutting them.
  2. And leftists aren’t the only ones who think lifting the payroll tax cap is the way to go. Harry J. Ballantyne thinks so too. Ballantyne co-authored a paper on the topic, in fact, that reached this conclusion: “(Social Security’s) long term modest shortfall of less than 1% of GDP can be addressed by raising employer and employee payroll tax rates, by raising the cap on taxable earnings, or by some combination of the two.” The report continues: “Raising the cap is an appealing option because in recent decades the lion’s share of increases in both earnings and life expectancy has gone to those at the top of the income distribution.”

NOTE: Ballantyne was Chief Actuary for Social Security for many years, appointed during the Reagan Administration. 

Seniors, let’s let our senators and representatives know that we expect them to sit down and discuss Social Security solvency reasonably, and we want to hear serious consideration given to lifting the payroll tax cap.  We will not support cutting benefits or raising retirement age.  Our numbers are growing with Baby Boomers’ retiring; we have more political clout than ever before.  We can be a driving force to making changes in the Social Security program, to insuring its solvency, and to ensuring our benefits aren’t touched.



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