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We agree: Fix Social Security

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Posted: 4 pm ET

People who are opposed to changing anything about Social Security are a loudmouthed bunch, but a recent study suggests that all their noise is much ado about nothing. Most reasonable people see the need to fix Social Security and are willing to make changes.

Voice Of the People, a new organization affiliated with the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, polled a representative sampling of voters and concluded that a significant majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents would support four potential fixes to Social Security that together would eliminate 71 percent of the projected shortfall, according to Social Security trustees. Left unfixed, the shortfall will lead to the need for substantial cuts in benefits after 2034 -- a real retirement planning problem.

The four changes endorsed by voters were:

  • About 79 percent approved reducing benefits for the top 25 percent of earners -- those  with average earnings over their lifetimes of about $65,500 a year or more. This would reduce the Social Security shortfall by 7 percent.
  • Some 78 percent would raise the full retirement age to 68, while maintaining the possibility of collecting a greatly reduced amount at age 62, reducing the shortfall by 16 percent.
  • Another 83 percent would raise the cap on income subject to the payroll tax to $215,000, while continuing to pay high earners 15 cents on the dollar in benefits for every dollar they and their employers pay into the system. This would cover 30 percent of the Social Security shortfall.
  • Finally, 75 percent would increase the payroll tax rate for both workers and employers from 6.2 percent to 6.6 percent. This would reduce the shortfall by 18 percent.

A smaller majority -- 52 percent -- would completely remove the cap on wages subject to Social Security -- while still paying high earners benefits worth 15 cents on every dollar they and their employers pay in. Adopting this and the other proposals would totally eliminate any shortfall.

Steven Kull, author of the report and senior research fellow at the University of Maryland, says he wasn't surprised that people were willing to endorse a solution to Social Security's problems, but he was surprised that Republicans, Democrats and Independents all had similar opinions about how to fix Social Security.

"Our leaders need to treat the public like adults and assume that they have the capacity to understand the issue and relate to it in an intelligent way," Kull says.

If you'd like to take the same poll that this group took, you can go to VOP.org and click on "Try a Simulation." Keep in mind that these proposed changes would not affect the promised benefits for people who are older than 48 years of age in 2014.

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15 Comments
Jay
February 17, 2014 at 7:55 pm

There is no "fix" for ss. You can not retire at 65, then live to 85, and expect to get a decent amount of money from ss. It doesn't take long to use up all that you put into ss. There is no huge pile of investment dollars in an ss fund sitting around somewhere. It is a "pay as you go" plan. Those who are working pay for those who are retired. That works reasonably well when retirees die fairly soon after age 65, the economy is growing robustly, and the population of workers is also growing. Obviously, that situation can't go on indefinitely. "Growth" can not continue forever.
It is apparent that the only answer to the ss problem is greatly reduced benefits for retirees in the future. It will happen no matter what other "remedies" are tried.

Jim Rhodes
February 17, 2014 at 7:20 pm

The "fixes" are fine. However, begin by excluding anyone who has not contributed from receiving benefits. Then work from there to develop a fair program.

SAM BACH
February 17, 2014 at 6:48 am

I STARTED WORKING AT 16 FOR THE FEDERAL GOV., BETWEEN HIGH SCHOOL,MILITARY SERVICE, AND BACK AGAIN TO THE FED. GOV. IN 1974, I GOT THE CHANCE TO TAKE AN EARLY OUT IN 1995. I HAD EVERY THING PAID FOR SO TOOK IT. MY RETIREMENT WAS ABOUT $950 A MONTH AFTER ALL DEDUCTIONS. I GOT TO KEEP MY HEALTH INSURANCE, SURVIVORS BENIFANTS, & LIFE INSURANCE POLICEY. MY EARLY YEARS & MILITARY TIME AND TEMPERY TIMES WERE ALL PAID INTO SS. MY PERMANET TIME IN THE FED. GOV. MONEY WAS PAID INTO A GOV. RETIREMENT PROGRAM. SO WHEN I RETIRED AT AGE 44 1/2 YRS. I WAS TOLD THAT I WOULD ONLY RECEIVE HALF MY SS WHEN I WAS OLD ENOUGH TO COLLECT. I WORKED ON AND OFF TILL I THINK 2008. I HAD ALL MY QUARTERS PAYED IN FOR SS BUT KNEW I,D ONLY GET HALF, I'M GETTING A MEASELY $180 A MONTH, BUT LOST $230 A MONTH OFF MY GOV. RETIREMENT! ALL BECAUSE OF SOME STUPID LAW JUST MADE FOR GOV. RETIRIES BACK IN 1978 THAT SUCKS. TALK ABOUT A SLAP IN THE FACE AND YET THERE ARE QUITE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT NEVER PAID A DIME INTO SS AND GET MORE THEN I GET ON BOTH MY SS AND FED. GOV. RETIREMENT, THIS NEEDS TO BE STOPPED NOW, THEN THERE WOULD BE LOTS OF MONEY IN SS.

Leigh
February 13, 2014 at 11:59 am

Most Americans end up getting more in SS than they ever paid in; at that point, it becomes an entitlement. I have no problem paying out what people paid in, but after that, you should be on your own. And that goes for everyone, regardless of their income level.

SS was NEVER intended to be a full retirement package and it's only because greedy people started believing it was that we became so dependent on it. It's time to put retirement entirely into the hands of individuals. If you aren't smart enough to plan for it, then that's just too bad. If you want the extra kid and the extra car and the extra house, but find you have nothing left when you're unable to work, well, my sympathy is so very minimal. Some of us are smart enough to take care of ourselves. Given the current elected government in the US, it's no surprise we are in the minority.

Robert Jordan
February 12, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Now "IF" even "1" potlicker...I mean politician would read these comments from folks that have paid, paid, paid most if not all of their entire life...as I have "45 years", I have paid in and now we hear how desperate this S.S. is Bull, Pay back the money you the potlickers took. Remove the cap, STOP folks from foreign coming here work 5 years leave, come here and DO NOT PAY any taxes for 7 years . Come on give us a break you really can not believe the American people are that/ this stupid. S.S. is NOT a entitlement...check the definition of the word Genesis...collage professor, same thing.

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