Social Security What's Buzzing

Five ways Congress could weaken Social Security

Written by Diane Archer

Of all the federal government programs in the U.S., Social Security is perhaps the most treasured. Democratic and Republican voters alike value Social Security deeply. But, Republican leaders in the House and the Senate want to end Social Security as we know it. What keeps me up at night? If Trump becomes President, here are five ways Congress could weaken Social Security.

  1. Republicans in Congress want to privatize Social Security: Privatizing Social Security means investing Social Security monies in the stock market. Stock market dips, drops or crashes would mean cuts in people’s benefits. The amount of their monthly Social Security benefits would no longer be guaranteed each year.
  2. Republicans in Congress want people to get smaller Social Security checks, not guarantee them what they currently get or increase their checks: They tend to claim that the way to “save” Social Security is to reduce its benefits. They do not see lifting the cap on Social Security contributions or otherwise raising additional revenue for Social Security as an option. They do not want the wealthiest Americans to contribute more to Social Security.
  3. Republicans in Congress want to make people wait longer to receive their full Social Security retirement benefits: Today, the full Social Security retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954, up from age 65. And, it is going up further to age 67. Raising Social Security’s retirement age means fewer benefits for everyone in retirement. And, it does particular harm to people with lower incomes, people who likely had no choice but to retire early because of work-related health conditions. It is unfair and inequitable. People who claim benefits at age 62 receive a 25 percent cut in their monthly check and, because they are more prone to serious health conditions, they tend to have shorter life expectancies than others.
  4. Republicans in Congress want to limit Social Security benefit inflation adjustments.They support a “chained CPI,” which effectively would keep benefits from increasing in tandem with inflation because of the way the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment is calculated. Already, Social Security benefits do not increase in tandem with the increases in total expenses for older adults because they do not take account of the larger amount older adults spend on health care relative to younger adults; health care costs are increasing much more quickly than other household expenses. For this reason, it’s likely that Social Security checks will not increase in 2017.
  5. Republicans in Congress want to “means test” Social Security benefits: They want to take away from wealthier Americans their earned Social Security benefits, arguing that Social Security should be for people who lack adequate means or “means-tested.” But Social Security is not a welfare program, it’s insurance. As with any insurance, people who pay in receive benefits when triggered, regardless of need. With Social Security, they receive benefits upon disability, death, or retirement. Means-testing benefits also will increase Social Security’s administrative costs.  Social Security is now the most efficient insurance around, with administrative costs of less than one percent. More than .99 cents of every Social Security dollar is paid in benefits. Means-testing benefits makes no sense.

The U.S. is facing a retirement security crisis. Americans do not want to see benefits cut. They believe that they are too modest. In response, the 2016 Democratic Party Platform, in sharp contrast to Republican policymakers, focuses on expanding Social Security benefits, while requiring the wealthiest to pay their fair share. Sign this petition if you support expanding Social Security benefits.

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6 Comments

  • There is a huge “secret” that no one is talking about, and it is the fact that the federal government does not even need to raise Social Security taxes to substantially increase benefits. As the sovereign issuer of a free floating currency not tied to any commodity, the federal government can simply create and spend as much money as it needs to pay S S benefits. Why should the federal government not use the same powers it used to bail out the insolvent banks by creating funds with keystrokes and purchasing toxic assets to create funds to increase S S benefits? Alan Greenspan testified before Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee that this is possible. Where is the will to accomplish this?

  • There is another reason to reject the Republican snake oil remedy of means testing Social Security benefits. Wealthier people will withdraw support of the program since they would be paying into it and not getting anything out of it. My question is why do Republicans want to punish ordinary Americans?

  • This article is just one more trolling attempt by the establishment in D.C. to scare everyone into voting for Trump. And they are succeeding. What a great election strategy. “VoteYour Fear!” We are in an unspeakable situation, but I am not voting for the fearmongers.

    • …if anything I see this article scaring people into Not voting for Trump (actually Pence, as like with Cheney and Bush Jr. he will end up running the show) and the Republicans.

      Mrs Clinton, while I don’t see eye to eye with her on everything, has committed to not only protecting but expanding Social Security.

      The key here is to take back the Senate and as many seats in the House as possible. Then we really need to get out the vote in the 2018 midterm to complete retaking of both chambers. We need to have more people like Ms Warren, Mr Sanders, Mr, Merkely fighting for us.

  • …indeed the Republican agenda for Social Security is a frightening one, as well as the Libertarian candidate’s policies.

    Instead of reducing benefits, how about reducing the paycheques and benefits of a legislative body that is obstructionist, does little or nothing for it’s constituents, and is “on the job” less than half a year. If these people were in the private sector they would have been sacked a long time ago. We are in effect their “bosses”, however the only time we can exercise our “authority” is every two (House) or six (Senate) years, and due to current structure of campaign financing, that authority is watered down because usually whomever has the biggest “warchest” wins. There is no “Mr Smith goes to Washington” unless Mr Smith is already affluent if not wealthy and has big money support. behind him In effect we have our own version of the “House of Lords” as many seem to feel they are above, rather than being public servants of, their constituents.

    We all know that privatising SS is a bad deal. One just has to look at the performance of 401ks to see it will do more harm than to seniors than help them. Last Summer, the value of Disney Corp. employees’ 401k plans took a severe hit when one of the investments went sour. Their retirement accounts were actually devalued in the deal. As the article points out, the same would hold true for those on SS. Meanwhile the hedge Fund managers and speculators in the Wall Street Casino will be the only ones who benefit, of of the money we worked for, and worse, not even be taxed for their gains.

    Raising the age is a terrible idea. The “reason” given is people are living longer however one issue is totally missed in this, ageism in retention and hiring which is being allowed to go on pretty much unchecked. This is one of the reasons many opting for early retirement early. The most promising and growing career market high tech, is one of the worst for older people as once you reach say 40 – 45 you are considered “over the hill”, that you lost your creative edge, “you are a stick in the mud” when it comes to change etc.., all excuses to mask the real reason, that companies don’t want to pay workers for the experience they have gained.

    In my mid 50s I learned how to work with 3D CGI on my own without setting foot in a classroom. At 58 I taught myself about PC design and successfully built (and maintain) a computer workstation for my CGI work. Now tell me that I lost my “creative edge”, or my sense of innovation. Sadly though to be hired in anything remotely related, I need to have a piece of paper hanging on a wall that I went horribly into debt to obtain to “prove” I can do what I can do and still, most likely will be passed over for some young buck in his 20s with the same “credentials”. Crikey, to even go back to the former line of work I was in (warehouse/inventory management) I am finding I now would need a bachelor’s degree.

    In light of this, I’d like to ask these candidates, how are people supposed to survive until say 70 (or as Libertarian Gary Johnson wants it, 75) when physical requirements of many jobs become too much to handle and/or employers would rather hire new recruits they can pay low ball wages to?

    #4 in the article is a particularly important one to me as the method used to determine increases in benefits is terribly flawed and needs serious revision today. One of the fastest rising and largest costs besides medications is not petrol (one of the current criteria), but rent. Rents in cities are skyrocketing out of control. Where I live (Portland OR) the median rent for a 1 BR apartment is 1,400$ and rising. Try to afford that on the average Social Security monthly benefit. Many places in the city where seniors need to live are ridiculously priced and often much higher than the median (which also takes into account shared rentals, the burbs, and outlying environs). Low Rent/Subsidised housing? This has all but dried up here (as wel las in other cities) with waiting lists upwards of three to even five years. and some closed indefinitely. Developers are not interested in constructing/managing “affordable” housing for seniors because they see no profit in it as well as having to deal with a lot of government red tape. Another issue which relates to this which I read about the other day is that a growing number of older people are turning to medicinal (CBD) cannabis to relieve pain rather than addictive prescription opiates and OTC NSAIDs. Even in states where it is legal, one cannot live in federally subsidised housing if on medicinal cannabis as it is still considered illegal on the national level.

    The bottom line is that Republican and Libertarian plans for Social Security will basically result in a large number of older folks joining our nation’s growing number of homeless. Reduced benefits as well as reduction in spending for programmes like SNAP, rental assistance/subsidies, and Medicare (all on the conservative docket) will put seniors in a position of extreme poverty rather than allowing them to retire with dignity, the latter which was one of the original aims of the Social Security programme.

  • another point that should be made in regard to Social Security is that all other advanced nations also give their citizens pension plans. It’s not that the US is doing more than other nations, and in fact by comparison, they may be doing a fair bit less. please refer to the graph of 34 OECD nations in the article:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/almost-every-other-advanced-country-has-higher-relative-social-security-benefits-than-the-us-2013-12

    please note as well, age of retirement is not mentioned in the article, but should be factored in. fwiw, many, if not most, european nations set the retirement age at 60 yrs old.

    we should instead perhaps be asking our representatives “why, as the wealthiest nation on earth, are we not topping this list instead of falling near last?”

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