Take hikes are not the answer to Social Security

Further Reforms to Modernize Social Security — Saving the American Dream

Great article from Heritage Foundation on Social Security System that shows that tax hikes are not the answer:

Social Security is currently unsustainable. It began running deficits in 2010 and its trust fund will be exhausted by 2036, which is when seniors will see about a 25 percent cut in benefits. This is the scenario we face if Congress and the President fail to enact meaningful entitlement reform and continue reckless fiscal policies. This course is reversible, however.

At a recent House Budget Committee hearing on the fiscal facts concerning Medicare and Social Security, Members were divided on how to save Social Security. Despite hearing from Steve Goss, Social Security’s chief actuary, that raising taxes is not a necessity, tax hikes remained the leading option among certain lawmakers. Both parties agree that Social Security is insolvent, but they disagree on what to do about it.

Raising taxes, however, is not an option. Amidst the greatest recession in three decades, higher payroll taxes threaten to damage the American economy. Heritage has a new plan for Social Security, as presented in Saving the American Dream. It promises to restore fiscal responsibility and protect Americans from unneeded tax hikes.

At present, workers and their employers each pay 6.2 percent for Social Security retirement and disability benefits, adding up to a 12.4 percent payroll tax that is levied on every single worker’s income. If the government were to increase this tax to pay for Social Security’s deficits, every American worker and his boss would split an increase of at least 2.2 percent. Raising these taxes will discourage employers from hiring new workers and exacerbate unemployment.

Tax-loving lawmakers then turn to the tax cap. Social Security taxes are currently deducted only from the first $106,800 each worker earns. But some lawmakers suggest that any money Americans don’t “need” is fair game for tax hikes. President Obama most recently revealed this philosophy, fundamentally at odds with America’s job creators, during a press conference on the debt limit. Similarly, certain members at the recent House Budget Committee hearing suggested lifting the cap on the Social Security payroll tax to pay for the program’s shortfall. But taking more money out of the private economy limits entrepreneurial exercise—the true source of wealth in any free-market economy.

The Heritage Foundation plan does not call for unnecessary tax increases. Instead, it restores Social Security to its original purpose of being a safeguard against senior poverty. The plan includes both a transition into a flat benefit for those who work more than 35 years, as well as phasing out Social Security benefits for those who have significant non-Social Security retirement income. The plan also contains incentives to encourage Americans to work beyond the age at which they would normally receive benefits. Because Americans are living longer than ever before, they are spending more years in retirement. Therefore, Saving the American Dream calls for gradually increasing the retirement age and then indexing it to life expectancy.

Unemployment remains high, and Social Security faces serious fiscal challenges. It simply cannot afford to pay all of the future benefits it has promised. Elected leaders must realize that tax hikes are not the answer and that there are different ways to save both Social Security and the economy. Saving both requires our attention now, and as Heritage’s David John writes, “ [I]nstead of just blindly defending the current program, both Congress and the Obama Administration should propose comprehensive programs that permanently fix Social Security.”

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  • Joe The Economist  On December 27, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Welfare isn’t the American dream. This plan changes the system from a contribution system to a welfare state. More welfare is not the answer to the system’s problems. If you disagree feel free to come yell at us at http://www.FixSSNow.Org. Here is our review.


    • Everette Hatcher III  On December 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      I agree with you “Joe the Economist” that making the Social Security a welfare program is not a good idea, but your plan avoids the obvious solution. WE MUST PRIVATIZE THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM LIKE MANY OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE STARTED DOING.

      Dan Mitchell on the Cato Institute website on Jan 10, 2011 wrote:

      There are two crises facing Social Security. First the program has a gigantic unfunded liability, largely caused by demographics. Second, the program is a very bad deal for younger workers, making them pay record amounts of tax in exchange for comparatively meager benefits. This video explains how personal accounts can solve both problems, and also notes that nations as varied as Australia, Chile, Sweden, and Hong Kong have implemented this pro-growth reform.

      Social Security reform received a good bit of attention in the past two decades. President Clinton openly flirted with the idea, and President Bush explicitly endorsed the concept. But it has faded from the public square in recent years. But this may be about to change. Personal accounts are part of Congressman Paul Ryan’s Roadmap proposal, and recent polls show continued strong support for letting younger workers shift some of their payroll taxes to individual accounts.

      Equally important, the American people understand that Social Security’s finances are unsustainable. They may not know specific numbers, but they know politicians have created a house of cards, which is why jokes about the system are so easily understandable.

      President Obama thinks the answer is higher taxes, which is hardly a surprise. But making people pay more is hardly an attractive option, unless you’re the type of person who thinks it’s okay to give people a hamburger and charge them for a steak.

      Other nations have figured out the right approach. Australia began to implement personal accounts back in the mid-1980s, and the results have been remarkable. The government’s finances are stronger. National saving has increased. But most important, people now can look forward to a safer and more secure retirement. Another great example is Chile, which set up personal accounts in the early 1980s. This interview with Jose Pinera, who designed the Chilean system, is a great summary of why personal accounts are necessary. All told, about 30 nations around the world have set up some form of personal accounts. Even Sweden, which the left usually wants to mimic, has partially privatized its Social Security system.

      It also should be noted that personal accounts would be good for growth and competitiveness. Reforming a tax-and-transfer entitlement scheme into a system of private savings will boost jobs by lowering the marginal tax rate on work. Personal accounts also will boost private savings. And Social Security reform will reduce the long-run burden of government spending, something that is desperately needed if we want to avoid the kind of fiscal crisis that is afflicting European welfare states such as Greece.

      Last but not least, it is important to understand that personal retirement accounts are not a free lunch. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, so if we let younger workers shift their payroll taxes to individual accounts, that means the money won’t be there to pay benefits to current retirees. Fulfilling the government’s promise to those retirees, as well as to older workers who wouldn’t have time to benefit from the new system, will require a lot of money over the next couple of decades, probably more than $5 trillion.

      That’s a shocking number, but it’s important to remember that it would be even more expensive to bail out the current system. As I explain at the conclusion of the video, we’re in a deep hole, but it will be easier to climb out if we implement real reform.

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