Social Security is a key government program that benefits over 60 million people (seniors, the disabled, and surviving spouses and children of beneficiaries). This program has allowed millions of seniors to avoid becoming homeless, going bankrupt or being destitute as well as providing help for the disabled and survivors in a time of need.
Some members of both the Democratic and Republican parties — especially of the Republican leadership, including House Speaker Paul Ryan — have long targeted Social Security and Medicare for reform, mostly at the expense of the programs' beneficiaries. In addition, Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney, President Trump's nominee for budget director, supports raising the retirement age for Social Security to 70 and using means testing to qualify for Medicare.
I am going to focus on Social Security in this column. President Trump consistently said he would not cut its benefits during his campaign. He claimed that the increased economic growth his policies will produce as well as the elimination of Social Security fraud would allow him to maintain these benefits. The Urban Institute has questioned Trump's statement about Social Security, pointing out that an expanding economy would, at best, delay the point at which the Social Security Trust Fund would run out of money.
There are projections as to when the Trust Fund runs out of money. They have recently varied from 2029 to 2042 with current guesstimates around 2030. These projections are based on a number of assumptions about the rates of population and economic growth. However, even if the Trust Fund were to run out of money, projections vary but suggest the program would still be able to fund between 70 percent to 80 percent of its usual benefits.
Disappointingly, few politicians openly discuss a simple approach for fully funding the Social Security Trust Fund. The wealthy have long paid a much smaller percentage of their income to Social Security than the rest of us and no Social Security tax at all on their unearned income. Instead of continuing these policies benefiting only the wealthy, the U.S. should subject all earned income as well as unearned income above some reasonable value, say $50,000, to the Social Security tax. Making these simple changes would eliminate the projected shortfall and would ensure that Social Security would be there for future generations.
To help to accomplish this goal, call Representative Jared Polis (202-225-2161) and Senators Michael Bennet (202-224-5852) and Cory Gardner (202-224-5941) and urge them to support the requirement that all earned income and unearned income above some level be subject to the Social Security tax.
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