TO MY WAY of thinking, it is inexcusable that we’ve reached the point where there’s even the possibility that Social Security may not be able to pay full benefits 16 years from now. Americans are scared by the prospect. Some have even given up hope that the program will continue to exist.
Back in 2000, Social Security’s Trustees urged action: “In view of the size of the financial shortfall in the [Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance] program over the next 75 years, we again urge that the long-range deficits of both the [Old-Age and Survivors Insurance] and [Disability Insurance] Trust Funds be addressed in a timely way. It is important to address both the OASI and DI problems well before any necessary changes take effect, to allow time for phasing in such changes and for workers to adjust their retirement plans to take account of those changes.”
Similar warnings, urging action sooner rather than later, are contained in every Trustees report since 2000. And yet nothing significant has been done to solve the problem. To apply another band-aid, Congress in 2017 authorized the temporary reallocation of the payroll tax from the old-age fund to the disability fund for years 2016 through 2018. That was because the disability fund was running out of money sooner than the old-age trust.
It isn’t hard to craft a balanced combination of changes that will fix the problem. I cooked up my own solution using the calculator on the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget website. These changes would make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years. You may have better ideas. But the point is, a combination of changes will easily fix Social Security and increase benefits. My proposed fix:
With the above plan, no current retirees are harmed, while the impact on current workers is modest. Nobody likes higher taxes of any kind. But let’s face it: Social Security is part of our social and economic fabric. Americans will continue to rely on Social Security for a significant portion of their retirement income—and we need to agree on a fix.
Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous articles include Get Me the Doctor, Running in Place and Tortoises Needed. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.