Thursday, October 02, 2014

Another article proving it's impossible to talk about Social Security

News flash everybody: there are Republicans out there in the American heartland who are suggesting that all may not be well in Social Security land - just like the program's Trustees:
Neither Medicare nor Social Security can sustain projected long-run program costs in full under currently scheduled financing, and legislative changes are necessary to avoid disruptive consequences for beneficiaries and taxpayers.
Crazy talk! sez the New York Times (natch) columnist Gail Collins who has decided it's all a diabolical plot to throw Grandma from the gravy train:
By the way, Social Security is not going bankrupt. In 2033, incoming payroll taxes will no longer be enough to pay for all the benefits. But they’ll still cover about 75 percent of the payments and we could take care of the rest of the problem with a few tweaks — like getting rid of the cap on Social Security taxes. (Currently, all income over $117,000 is exempt from the payroll tax.)
There you go Generation X: you may have an Excel spreadsheet with estimated benefits from Social Security when you retire in 2033 but it's going to be 25% less than you calculated.  Geez, what's the big deal?  Besides, we can just soak those Richie-Riches.

Or can we?  The handshake agreement of Social Security is that it is a universal benefit and everybody gets back a benefit proportional to what was put in.  Raising the income cap means that people like Bill Gates would receive million-dollar Social Security benefit checks every month.  FDR didn't want Social Security to be a welfare program and that's why the income cap exists: the maximum in taxes also caps the maximum benefit.

This important distinction is lost on 98% of the commenters on the NYT opinion page, who are in full torch-and-pitchfork mode.  We shouldn't expect anything different from the paper that puts populist rhetoric above all.

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