Democrat — MO 2nd District

Social Security

Summary:

  • We need to do a better job of educating the public on what Social Security is and what it isn’t.
  • There are several remedies to the impending problems that retiring “Baby Boomers” will inflict on the Social Security Administration. All of these solutions will cause pain.
  • But the most reasonable plan of attack is to embrace SLOW and MODEST change across both retirees and taxpayers.
  • Most imperative, however, is that we demand that Congress do something NOW in order to protect Social Security for future generations. Every day Congress waits, the more painful the remedies will be.

Congress’ position on many issues can be understood by following the money. When it comes to Social Security you can understand current policy by following the cowardice.

Social security policy has sometimes been referred to as “the third rail of American politics.” The argument is that decision makers venture into this policy at their own peril. One false move and you can execute yourself (politically speaking, of course).

Social Security is a “pay-as-you-go” program. That means that today’s workers pay the social security for today’s retirees. A common misconception is that, upon retirement, there’s a package of money that you’ve been contributing to awaiting you at 65. That’s simply not how it works.

Social Security instead must be viewed as an “agreement between generations.” The generation that is working and paying taxes will take care of the generation that’s retired. It’s been a good system. But then the baby-boomers happened.

With the number of retirees – now living longer than ever – at an all-time high, there’s been a strain on the social security funding. Even the surpluses that have been invested over the decades in treasury bonds are now at risk.

Enter congressional cowardice. There are no easy solutions. But what we can’t afford is Congress to shirk its responsibility to do something to improve the long-term viability of this program. Gutless members of Congress – from both parties – continue to just kick the can down the road….

All realistic remedies will cause pain. What Congress needs to do is spread the pain across several different remedies. And they need to start this IMMEDIATELY! Every year that Congress ignores this problem, the more difficult it will be to eventually save.

There are several remedies on the table. Unfortunately, all of them will cause pain. I would propose an immediate combination of the following:

  • Slowly introduce modest increases in the amount of income taxable under FICA. In 2017, only $127,200 of one’s income is taxable under FICA. For the vast majority of tax filers this means their entire income is taxable. But for the extremely wealthy, they end up only paying a small percentage toward Social Security. Raising this taxable ceiling will bring in more revenue to Social Security.
  • Slowly introduce modest increases in taxation for all FICA contributors. Increases should be introduced on a progressive scale – meaning that higher income earners should pay more than lower income earners.
  • Slowly introduce modest reductions in Social Security benefits. Lower income Social Security beneficiaries should see the fewest (if any) reductions.

The key words in each of these is SLOWLY and MODEST. Each of these remedies, if carried out alone, would cause tremendous pain for a specific segment of the population. But if these remedies are carried out simultaneously, we could spread the costs across more people, and thus, reduce the pain on any one segment.

But even the best and most reasoned plans are meaningless without the proper leadership. Unfortunately, we don’t have the courageous leadership required to fix Social Security. The longer we wait for this leadership, the more painful the inevitable price that we’ll need to pay will be.

And without getting a better handle on Social Security’s long-term viability, we are also left with deteriorating programs in Medicare and Medicaid.

Don’t believe the hype. Social Security can be saved! But it will take courage, leadership, and reasoned planning. All virtues in short supply in today’s United States Congress.

End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.