Would you vote for a small cut to your Social Security payments if making this cut would ensure that you and others would continue to get the remaining promised payments for the rest of your life and put the U.S. on a solid financial footing going forward?
Harris pollsters on behalf of Wells Fargo asked a representative sampling of Americans a version of this question and got a mixed response, with the majority opposed to the idea.
Some 61 percent of people who said they had saved less than $250,000 for retirement told pollsters no, they would not be willing to take a reduction in their Social Security or Medicare benefits.
People with more retirement savings -- greater than $250,000 -- weren't a whole lot more willing to accept cuts, with 54 percent saying no to this question. The most willing to accept a reduction were women with more than $250,000 in savings, with 45 percent saying yes.
In making any decision that reduces Social Security benefits, you have to take into account the impact that Social Security has on the personal economies of millions. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculates that almost 90 percent of people aged 65 and older receive some of their household income from Social Security. Thanks to Social Security, only 8.7 percent of Americans 65 and older live on incomes that are below the poverty line, but without Social Security, 43.6 percent would have incomes below it.
Of course, no proposals are talking about getting rid of Social Security altogether, just giving it a haircut. It's a tough retirement planning idea to swallow. Nearly all of us who are at or near retirement age have paid into this program for more than 40 years -- even during times in our lives when we needed every penny we could scrape together just to limp by. For our leaders to ask us to accept less than we might have gotten under different economic circumstances doesn't feel fair. But as my mother used to tell me -- frequently -- life isn't fair. If it would help reduce the debt that burdens our country and could overwhelm our children as they grow older, then I am reluctantly in favor.
How do you feel? Would you support cutting Social Security for the long-term good of the country?