Painless fixes for Social Security

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Via Atrios, the Social Security Trustees’ report lets us know how we can easily correct the 75-year slight shortfall, so that the program can continue paying full benefits:

Assuming the Trustees’ intermediate assumptions are realized, the deficit of 1.92 percent of payroll indicates that financial adequacy of the program for the next 75 years could be restored if the Social Security payroll tax were immediately and permanently increased from its current level of 12.4 percent (combined employee-employer shares) to 14.32 percent.

Put this in people terms. Assuming we hiked taxes to that level, a young person making $30,000 today would have to pay an extra $288 a year, and his or her employer an extra $288. That’s a bit of a chafe, and many would prefer not to lose that money to taxes (count me as one), but it’s hardly the sort of thing that cripples an entire economy. Indeed, odds are Congress wouldn’t even need to hike taxes by that much. For starters, there’s good reason to think that Social Security’s 75-year outlook is less bleak than the report thinks. Moreover, we could fix the slight imbalance through a combination of tax hikes and progressive benefit cuts for high-earners. Or we could decide not to raise the tax rate but instead levy payroll taxes on income above $90,000. Or we could boost immigration to improve the system’s fiscal health. So in the end, maybe that young person would have to pay an extra $200, or $100, or less, to keep Grandma from eating garbage. Some catastrophe.

Keep all that in mind when the president gets on TV and starts talking about a looming “crisis” that magically requires Congress to privatize the entire system, rocket up the federal debt, slash benefits by up to 40 percent, and leave all retirees at the mercy of the stock market.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate