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6 ways to improve Social Security

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

If you believe that cutting Social Security is bad for your retirement planning and the wrong way to go about fixing the economy, Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, says stand up and defend the program.

Kingson, who is also co-director of Social Security Works and co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition, spoke this week at the Claude Pepper Institute on Aging. He pointed to these statistics reported by Social Security itself in 2012.

  • Social Security is currently in surplus and has an accumulated reserve of $2.7 trillion.
  • Revenue will exceed benefits and administrative costs until 2021, when total accumulated reserves will be $3.1 trillion.
  • The accumulated reserves will enable the program to pay full benefits until 2033.
  • In 2033, reserves are projected to be depleted, but continuing wage taxes will cover three-quarters of benefits owed through 2087.
  • This projected shortfall is 2.6 percent of taxable payroll.

"We do not have a Social Security system that is belly up," Kingson says.

Instead of cutting Social Security, Kingson would improve it. He advocates these steps to make the program better serve everyone, but especially for people living in retirement.

  1. Increase the payroll tax rate for workers slowly over 50 years.
  2. Lift the payroll tax cap completely for employers. "If they want to pay high earners millions, that's fine, but make them pay wage tax on those salaries," Kingson says.
  3. Adopt the consumer price index for the elderly, or CPI-E, which unlike the current CPI for urban wage earners or clerical workers, or CPI-W, or the proposed chained CPI, recognizes the rising cost of health care.
  4. Restore Social Security's ability to offer good customer service by extending office hours and rehiring workers who were laid off.
  5. Increase benefits for the very poor. Give caregivers special credits, and give students who lose their parents benefits to age 22, so they can use them to pay for college.
  6. Keep the eligibility age at 62, encouraging work but protecting those who can't.

If you like his ideas, Kingson says tell your congressional representatives. "Politicians are afraid of noise from their districts," he says. "Write letters and circulate petitions."

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Steve Fine
March 20, 2013 at 11:56 am

Well.all you people out there who said that working for the state. feds or city did not pay the same as private...Well. my fat pension is for the rest of my long life...Good luck with your little joke of SS...Now who gets the last laugh...

February 26, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Can you explain to me and lots of people why the goverment pays drug addicts disability. This I know because a person I worked in a steel mill with for fifteen yrs ,she had 17yrs and she got fired because of it.....Now she gets disability for being a drug addict.this is not fair to people who have gotten hurt on the job and some I am sure can't get this aid which they really need.

February 25, 2013 at 3:17 pm

why cant our government geeepst ight cost of living keeps rising give usourfairshare please

February 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Please become real. The cost of living increases do not look at the real essentions. Food, Rent, Gas, Medical..granted Medical is covered by Medicare so we can remove it.

Those costs have been rising at much more then 1 1/2%. This yesr Both Reb % Demo who make sure their raise are substancial. WHAT DOES 34.00 A MONTH INCREASE buy. Thats 7.80 a week, that is almost useless. Lets clearify Social Security for my generation, it is not an Entitlement it is a Contracted Obligatin that we invested in Treasury Bonds. They tax the hell out of it, if we work to try and gain additional income.

Why have the Rep & Dems not raised the ceiling on paying in as the income have grown too, in many case obscene amounts in these Mega Chain that don't pay a living wage, but monopolies labor force by driving out local stores: E.G. harware, flooring, plumbing, food stores. These companies are the downfall of free entireprise through Right Wing Capitolism, not the way a voting REPUBLIC was suppose to work.

February 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

One thing that would really help those who rely on Social Security for their income is to pay them on or before the 3rd of the month. In Colorado if you pay your rent after the 3rd you must pay a $50.00 late fee. After the 6th they send it to a lawyer and in many cases this raises the late fee another $200.00. Many people who live on Social Security live from check to check and must pay these fees every month. The large rental companies know this and take advantage of it.

February 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm

To Scott: SS recip have not had increases for 3 yrs, we received a sm one in 2012. Need to get current on events before you get hot about ss increases. There are people who should be means tested, if they don't need SS, give it up to the ones who need it. I have worked my whole life and paid into the system.

February 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

P.S. Social Security COLAs should be tied to the average RAISE workers receive, not to the actual cost of living. Many of us haven't seen raises in five years or more, and have had to learn to do with less. Why should Social Security recipients keep getting 5, 6, 7% COLAs while the rest of us get nothing?

February 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

The payroll tax is already 15%. Add that to the 23% most of us working people are paying to keep the elderly in their big houses that we'll never afford and you've got us paying almost 40% to the Federal Government in taxes. Add in State taxes, real estate taxes, etc. and last year I paid about 60% of my income in tax and yet I should still pay *MORE*.

Here's an idea. LET PEOPLE SAVE FOR THEIR OWN RETIREMENT IF THEY WANT AND GET RID OF SOCIAL SECURITY ALTOGETHER. Give us back all the money we put in and let us invest it how we see fit. I got an 8% rate of return on my stock market investments last year. I get the unfortunate feeling my "return" on Social Security will be negative.

victoria bennett
February 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm

I agree with all six of his ideas. Why won't our government plan and except his ideas, and really fix social security?

February 24, 2013 at 9:34 am

My take on the six ideas in this article.
#1) Stated differently - Next 50 years shrink private employees take-home pay, if you have a job to pay for #3, #4, #5 & #6.
#2) Yep - those darn rich people should pay for #4, #5 & #6.
#3) How about - ALL politicians stop Automatic 5% increases and chain it to the CPI-E. No better yet - no pay increases for them.
#4) Yep - hire more government workers which is paid for by private sector workers.
#5) Maybe, if it is just for the Verified poor but no illegals should be entitled to SS as they are currently receiving thanks to Jimmy Carter. Not all those under 22 goes to college. Could pay help pay for illegal drugs though. So less crime perhaps - will consider.
#6) The only one that makes a lick of sense.