The American People will take Socialism, but they won’t take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to “End Poverty in California” I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.
– Upton Sinclair, Letter to Norman Thomas (25 September 1951)
The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) released a report this week about Americans attitudes toward Social Security, Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want? As the press release points out the survey finds sharp contrast between what Americans want and what lawmakers are talking about.
The new study, Strengthening Social Security: What Do Americans Want?, finds a sharp contrast between what Americans say they want and changes being discussed in Washington, such as cutting benefits by using a “chained” Consumer Price Index to determine Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).
Large majorities of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, agree on ways to strengthen Social Security — without cutting benefits. Fully 74% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats agree that “it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing Social Security taxes paid by working Americans.”
When asked the same question about increasing Social Security taxes for better-off Americans, 71% of Republicans and 97% of Democrats agree. Social Security taxes are paid by workers and their employers on earnings up to a cap ($113,700 in 2013). About 5% of workers earn more than the cap.
The survey used a new approach to measuring public opinion about Social Security. In addition to asking participants whether they would favor a particular change, they were asked to choose a preferred package of changes, much as lawmakers might do. Participants considered various combinations of 12 possible changes, including raising taxes; lowering benefits by raising the full retirement age, changing the COLA, or means-testing benefits; and increasing benefits.
The most favored package of changes — preferred to the status quo by seven in 10 participants across generations and income levels — would:
- Gradually, over 10 years, eliminate the cap on earnings taxed for Social Security. This would mean that the 5% of workers who earn more than the cap would pay into Social Security all year, as other workers do.
- Gradually, over 20 years, raise the Social Security tax that workers and employers each pay from 6.2% of earnings to 7.2%. The increase would be so gradual that someone earning $50,000 a year would pay about 50 cents a week more each year, with the employer’s share increasing by the same amount.
- Increase the COLA to more accurately reflect the inflation actually experienced by seniors, who typically pay more out-of-pocket for medical care than other Americans.
- Raise Social Security’s minimum benefit so that a worker who pays into Social Security for 30 years can retire at 62 or later with benefits above the federal poverty line ($10,788 in 2011). Currently, lifetime low-wage workers are at risk of falling into poverty in their old age, even after paying Social Security taxes throughout their working lives.
Social Security currently faces a projected long-term funding shortfall, and in the absence of action by Congress the program would be able to pay only about 75% of scheduled benefits after 2033. The above package of four changes would turn the projected financing gap into a small surplus, providing a margin of safety.
“This report deserves close attention from policymakers,” said James Roosevelt, Jr., President and CEO of Tufts Health Plan and grandson of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who created Social Security in 1935. “It drills deeper into public opinion than standard surveys and shows how Americans are willing to make hard choices and address challenges for the common good.”
Social Security is one of the most popular and well run government programs in US history. That’s why the American public loves it so much and wants to strengthen it for generations to come. It’s also true that the right wing in America has always hated it, and wants to destroy it.
This is also an issue for veterans, VETERANS GROUP: CHAINED CPI WOULD ‘BALANCE THE BUDGET ON THE BACKS OF THOSE WHO FOUGHT FOR US’.