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Taking aim at Social Security

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

Now that the election is decided, President Barack Obama and Congress are faced with the fiscal cliff. Social Security, which accounts for 20 percent of the U.S. budget, is the big target on the edge of that cliff.

The program's defenders are lining up to do battle.

Social Security Works, a coalition that urges increases in the program and fights cuts, has launched what it calls The Lame Duck Whip Count, which is keeping track of how members of Congress stand on cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The number of members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives who support this stance is unclear, but so far, nearly 30 mostly Democratic senators are on the Whip Count no-cuts list. At an early morning, post-election news conference calling for a quick fiscal cliff fix, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "We are not going to mess with Social Security."

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent, is circulating an online petition at SignOn.org that calls for no benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He already has nearly 100,000 electronic signatures -- and his effort has only just begun.

Social Security actuaries conclude that if we don't do something to control the cost of Social Security, by 2033, the program will only be collecting enough money to pay 75 percent of benefits owed. It may not look like it, but the political will to fix this problem is actually increasing, says Alison Borland, vice president of retirement solutions and strategies at human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt. But Borland doesn't see the fixes affecting people living in retirement or nearing it.

"There are easier things to stomach that impact people who are retiring 20, 30 or 40 years from now," she says.

She thinks that tax-saving tweaks to retirement savings plans such as IRAs and 401(k)s are more likely. Those changes could include eliminating some of the tax-deferred retirement plans, leaving only some version of a 401(k), probably a Roth 401(k) because it pushes the tax savings down the road. She also believes that it is likely that high-income earners will lose the ability to deduct much of their retirement savings.

In return, she predicts retirement planning will become more flexible with savers able to invest in a wider variety of options. "I think there is broad appreciation and recognition that retirement security is incredibly important, and you can expect the trade-off to any cuts to be a focus on getting more results from our investments," she says.

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81 Comments
wendell burks
November 11, 2012 at 11:37 am

I would like the social security stop being paid to people who did not pay into it ! I see that as the biggest problem, they give money to drug addicts who never worked and never paid into the system. I know of a 17 year old male who gets a check because he has ADHD. Lets be real here, he can work and yet he doesn't, he gets money from an account he did not pay into. If they want to cut social security then I want to get back all the money I paid in with interest so I can open a 401 k or some other retirement plan. Mr. President and Congress, please stop giving the money away to those who did not earn it.

Kraig Miller
November 11, 2012 at 11:32 am

kmil

I have worked over 40 years and paid into Social Security and earned my money. I did not decide to provide SS funds to people who have not earned it and have filed false disabiltiy claims to recieve funds. Since the mid 60's when the government decide too put SS in the general fund it has used SS as it personel bank and if they would reimburse SS it would not be in danger of becoming insolvent. While our elected officials depend on the hardworking tax payer for there retiremenent they have no vested interest in keeping SS intact

Joseph Young
November 11, 2012 at 11:13 am

I have no pension and very little savings left, so Social Security and food stamps is all I have. I live in a 12' x 12' room which is different than the boat or the van I lived in. Make the very wealthy and corporations pay into the system for once and use a Robin Hood tax of 1/2% on daily stock trades to pay down the debt instead of asking retirees to loose all they paid into the system.

PAUL
November 11, 2012 at 11:12 am

If you guys havn't seen the election results it really shows how many people support welfare over work if i could sit at home to collect benefits I probably would.I have a brotherinlaw who collects and he is 415lbs they gave him disability he actually got 2 checks for nothing it wasn't from him being denied because he has collected for awhile this is because this administration doesn't care who works, they gave let me say again gave him 4000$ twice in one year.He called to see why? they said dont worry about it, just think of it as a bonus .that's mine and your hard earned money that's collapsing social security the only way u fix it is you do what Bill Clinton did thats make them do community service and then lets see how many want to collect compared to actually working to get a reasonable check

John Brann
November 11, 2012 at 11:11 am

I believe we SHOULD be cutting the ENTITTLEMENTS and dailey perks to ALL members of CONGRESS.There retirement 45% of there BASE salary begining at age 67 or later.

George Dow
November 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

To set the record straight, do Senators and Congressmen contribute to the Social Security System while they are holding elective office?

Howard Gunter
November 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

Bernie, I agree that it is imperative that we keep social security intact. I struggle with getting on board with any and I mean 'any' elected or re-elected that have not come out publicly demanding FEMA do a better job. We have victims of IRENE here in Pittsfield, Vermont, that have been cajoled, placated, condescended to and out and out lied to. Every
politician that I have contacted replies with the same choreographed message "we are doing all we can". I do not believe that at all from the U S office holders, the governor's office or local politicians.

donna steinbiss
November 11, 2012 at 10:49 am

Hear,Hear, suMarie,
I too have worked 40 years and contributed to FICA. As a singe mother, I worked two/three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over our head. My next door neighbors were younger than I and there were two of them. They were on disability. However, I watched as they rode a tractor to cut grass, climbed ladders to cut trees, go to Disney World, as I drove off to work.

John Carbone
November 11, 2012 at 10:32 am

Bernie, I support your efforts in this petition, retain social security and medicare. Thanks John Carbone Pittsfield

suMarie
November 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

Having a strong work ethic for 46 years and a contributor to FICA, I am entitled to Social Security and Medicare. Why not look into those who are soaking the system dry w/o a fair contribution to the pot??? It's time to become productive members of society.