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Buying votes with Social Security

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Monday, February 20, 2012
Posted: 2 pm ET

The payroll tax cut Congress passed last week is supposed to save working families with a $50,000 annual household income an estimated $1,000 a year. That's about $20 a week in the pockets of some people for whom it will probably make a small difference.

The problem is that this tax cut with the sexy name -- “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” -- will come out of the money that workers contribute to Social Security. Over 10 months, this cut will put Social Security another $100 billion dollars in the hole -- a shortage that could make a big difference in the retirement planning of millions close to or at retirement.

Does that make sense?

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who voted against this bill, said in a statement, “The so-called experts will tell you that Social Security will be all right because we’ll backfill the reduced contributions with revenue from our general fund, but let me remind you that these are the same experts who have steered us to more than $15 trillion in debt – which is growing by $5 billion every business day.”

If you believe that Social Security is already dead in the water, then cutting what we ask workers to contribute to it as soon as possible makes sense. But if you study up on Social Security, you'll see there are many more reasons to continue it than there are to eliminate it.

  • Without Social Security, 42 percent of people older than 65 and the disabled would be poor.
  • Social Security is progressive. A low-wage earner gets a Social Security payment that is equal to about 80 percent of his pre-retirement earnings; an average wage earner gets Social Security equal to about 44 percent of his pre-retirement earnings; a high wage earner gets Social Security that is not more than 25 percent of his pre-retirement earnings.
  • Social Security is efficient. It spends about 1 percent of what it takes in on administration. Even if you are a very savvy investor of your own money, you have to work hard to find investments that cost that or less. Certainly, most 401(k) funds don't.

Boomers are voters with the power to make Congress think twice before passing anymore bills that threaten our retirement security. Speak up. Don't let Congress buy votes with Social Security.

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2 Comments
John Q Taxpayer
February 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Given that Social "Security" is a $100 Trillion unfunded liability, it should be eliminated ASAP. I don't like having to fund the retirement of people who didn't save for the future, especially when I need to save for my own future retirement.

William DeJarlais
February 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Cash flow is the only true measure of Social Security. (see article by Allan Sloan in the Washinton Post with this title) Sloan points out that this year Social Security will pay out about $46 billion more than it takes in. That shows that SS has a problem already as that money has to borrowed. Saying the government will give the trust fund money to make up for cutting the Fica taxes is not an answer since that money too has to be borrowed. The SS system needs more revenue not less. SS is too important for too many people to be given such poor treatment.