In 2021 Social Security is expected to begin drawing down its trust fund to cover benefits instead of tapping only the interest.
At this rate, the trust fund is set to deplete in 2033 and without congressional action, benefits could be cut at least 20% when the fund runs out. Due to the pandemic and recession, this is two years sooner than previously projected according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Despite the trust fund being depleted, there will still be benefits to be paid out because workers continue to add money to the Social Security system through payroll taxes. Medicare is on shakier ground. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) will run out of money in 2024, two years ahead of previous estimates.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), the program will become insolvent almost immediately.
BIDEN’S VISION FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
Democrats and Joe Biden would like to expand Social Security. They propose raising benefits for those who need it most, low wage workers, surviving spouses, caregivers and those that have collected benefits the longest. In addition, benefits for other groups would remain the same with one major change. Biden proposes to change the cost of living adjustment to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) which is an inflation adjustment with a heavier weighting on expenses that impact seniors such as healthcare and housing. This could lead to larger annual increases in benefits.
In order to increase benefits for those who need it most and raising the annual cost of living adjustment, the system will cost more than it does today. How would this be paid for?
SOLUTIONS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY
There is no one sized fits all solution to fixing Social Security. In fact, the best approach is a multi-pronged solution by pulling the various levers of Social Security funding. Here are some of the levers that could be changed to make a drastic impact on Social Security solvency:
– Increase payroll taxes on people earning more than $400,000/year. Currently only $137,700 of income is taxed. This could shore up the program for an additional 5 years.
– Increase payroll taxes for everyone by 1.2% or 50 cents per week. If we increase taxes on those earning above $400k/yr and phase-in payroll tax increases between now and 2043, Social Security could be secure for an additional 75 more years.
Other solutions include:
– Increasing the revenue contributed by today’s workers by increasing taxes and the amount of income taxed for Social Security.
– Reducing benefits for future beneficiaries by Increasing “full retirement age” which is currently 67 years old.
HONORING OUR COMMITMENT
On April 20th, 1983, Ronald Reagan signed a bill to preserve Social Security. As he said at the time,
“This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have one pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.”
It is time to remove politics from the programs that provide security for so many of our neediest citizens and to act now to shore up Social Security and Medicare.