What's the Deal With Social Security?

Part I in a series...

This article is the first in a series following up my opinion piece, Stop the GOP. An opinion piece, by definition, is not required to quote sources. That article was my own overview of a number of political issues, the result of many years of keeping up with the news, accessing a variety of sources and forming my opinion.

This series of articles is intended to address some of the issues raised by those who had questions, concerns or disagreements with that article. This series will present a more in depth look at each of these issues. In each article, whenever possible, I will attempt to seek out sources that are more likely to resonate with those whose opinions frequently differ from my own. I will also attempt to introduce a voice or message that resonates with me that I feel is likely to resonate universally.

There is no social security emergency!

“Social security is paid for with payroll taxes. It has nothing to do with the debt ceiling. Any attempt to take anything from it is theft from We the People. Social Security is an entitlement program because we are ENTITLED to it because we paid for it! It is a successful and fully funded program that can continue without change for the next 37 years. There is no Social Security emergency.” ~ The first paragraph of Stop the GOP

Q: If there is no social security emergency, why is the GOP insisting that cuts in social security be tied to the debt ceiling issue?

Some respondents stated that the GOP had not proposed any cuts to Social Security. In response to this, I would like to direct you to a reliable online source:

800,000 People Without Benefits for at Least a Month!

Title:  I need a social security card to update my drivers license! ~License: Attribution License ~ Photographer: Solo
Title: I need a social security card to update my drivers license! ~License: Attribution License ~ Photographer: Solo

A Press Release from the Democrats Ways and Means Committee dated 2/15/11

Verifies that House Republicans have proposed a 9.3% ($1.7 billion) reduction in SSA funding for the remainder of 2011. This reduction would reduce the Social Security operating budget by more than a billion dollars or 8.5% percent less than what is needed. The result would be $506 million dollars less than actual expenditure for 2010.

Furthermore, House Republicans propose taking $500,000,000 from Social Security’s (We the People’s) reserve account. This is money that has already been budgeted for a much needed computer system update; however, under the Republican plan, it would be removed.

An additional $118,000,000 that was also budgeted for the necessary computer upgrade, which has been determined to be critical to the mission of the Social Security program, would be rescinded.

What would the results of these cuts be?

  • A one month closing of all 1300 field offices
  • A huge claims backlog that would negatively impact the system and recipients for years
  • No telephone recourse and a complete standstill in claims processing
  • Suspension of the necessary (and already budgeted) acquisition of an up-to-date computer system

These cuts would not only shut Social Security down for a month, withhold benefits from recipients for at least a month, and put a stop to necessary equipment updates, they would also exacerbate the already problematic hiring freeze, which has accounted for about 3500 jobs lost this year. And what would happen to the employees from the 1300 field offices? Would they apply for unemployment? Would they still have jobs after the month was over? How would these circumstances affect our economy?

How would Social Security Recipients be impacted?

Specifically, the consequences of cuts proposed by Republicans would be that 400,000 people would not receive their benefit payments for at least a month. This would result in a huge backlog that could take years to sort out, not to mention 400,000 people being unable to pay rent, buy food, pay bills, and so on. The effect on the economy and on emergency care services and on individuals would be devastating.

In addition to the 400,000 people who would likely be turned out on the streets to starve, 290,000 people who are currently waiting for disability benefits would simply have to wait until the mess was sorted out, having already waited a very long time. Appeals and reviews of disability claims would also be backlogged, affecting an additional 90,000 people.

“I’m on record saying Social Security is the last place in the federal government we should look for cuts. It’s a lean, efficient program that, if anything, is too Spartan. In 2009, the average monthly benefit was slightly more than $1,000 — hardly lavish. That makes it one of the stingiest national-pension programs in the developed world, actually.”

Ezra Klein, The Washington Post

Will Social Security “go broke”?

Some respondents stated that Social Security is not a successful program and will go broke; however, according to Ezra Klein of the Washington Post - the oldest US newspaper, which is also generally regarded as being conservative, and is well known for excellent financial and political reporting, this is not necessarily the case. Mr. Klein states that there are aspects of the Social Security program in which responsible adjustments can be made to prevent any such scenario and improve the program.

Here are some of the changes he recommends:

  • Place a 3% surcharge on income higher than $200,000 to address half of the SSA shortfall.
  • Uncap payroll taxes so that income over $106,000 is also taxed. He explains that, currently, people with an income of $80,000 annually are taxed on every dollar, while those making a million dollars a year are only taxed on 10% of their income. He says that this change would eliminate the shortfall.
  • Have SSA benefits accrue more slowly for the wealthy because they don’t need them as much. I actually disagree with this. If the wealthy are to be taxed at the same rate as everyone else, they should also have the option of enjoying the same benefits - even if they don’t need them! They can always choose to show support for their country by refusing them or donating them back or to some other cause.
  • Address flaws that have developed in the SSA system with the passage of time, such as outdated regulations regarding divorce and marriage and the fact that minimum benefits are often woefully inadequate.
  • In addition to these adjustments, Mr. Klein recommends enhancements of the program:
  • Instate a universal 401(k) plan for all Americans to go along with social security benefits. A matching funds plan for the first $2000 invested annually by low income Americans could be set up. Klein points out that this plan would encourage personal saving while providing a stable retirement plan. He notes that the reinstatement of the estate tax on multimillionaires would more than fund this plan

What’s the bottom line?

In this article, Klein states the fact that Social Security has proven to be an efficient program. Furthermore, he states that it has weighed in as an overwhelmingly popular program with people across the board in every poll. He opines that these facts should indicate to politicians that talking about cutting benefits is not going to help their careers any.

He goes on to say that the concept that America, as the wealthiest nation on earth, can afford to provide a secure retirement for its citizens is more true now than it was when social security was begun. He essentially expresses the idea that this dream must simply be updated to reflect the current situation in the US today.

I am sure that a number of readers will disagree with some of these ideas and will holler about “socialism” when faced with the idea that multimillionaires might have to pay an estate tax, or wealthy people might face a lower rate of benefits accrual; however, the fact of the matter is, these people are Americans who live in this country and benefit from doing so. They, too, must make some sacrifices to keep our nation strong. The difference is that the “sacrifices” could be asked to make won’t land them on the streets or starve them to death. However, taking support away from seniors and people with disabilities who are already living at or below the poverty threshold will have just that effect.

Would making cuts to social security reduce the national debt?

Not really - it mainly would cause hardship and animosity and weaken our nation. Social security needs to be taken out of the mix regarding the deficit. It is money that belongs to We the People. Any problems social security faces are no greater than those that would be faced by any large service operating over the same time period. They must be handled separately and responsibly.

Straight Talk

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is a true representative of the people. He is well-known for working both sides of the aisle in the best interest of our nation. He regularly authors and introduces successful bills with bi-partisan support. He is a self-made man who embodies the American dream, having risen from a childhood of poverty to a seat in Congress. Those who have followed his career from the start know that he is not one who “can’t see the forest for the trees”. In the last 10 years I have seen him proven to have been “right all along” on many occasions.

In this video, Congressman Kucinich explains the real reasons behind the attempt to cut social security benefits.

Social Security Didn’t Create the Deficit

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Comments: The Value of Brevity

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Best Wishes!

More by this Author


Comments 32 comments

PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

Suzanne I agree wholeheartedly with your view and about Kucinich. If the congress was dependent on SS like the rest of us this would not even come up. The same with healthcare. How can we be non-accusatory and non-inflammatory? Peter


HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

You are right Justmesuzanne. There is no problem with Social Security. The only problem might be that the Republicans do not like it because they feel it is socialism. They are cruel and uncaring. The program works and if it ever needs more money, they can simply raise the income threshold where money is withheld from an employee's check. Great Hub.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks Peter and HS! What I mean by non-accusatory and non-inflammatory, Peter, is kindly refrain from accusing others on the message board of lying, being stupid, etc. Just, try to control yourself, alright! LOL! ;D

HS - Yeah, they could take more money out of the employees' checks and/or they could do some or all of the suggestions by Mr. Klein at the Washington Post! The main thing is that the government should not then drain our accounts dry for non-intended expenses!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

Suzanne,honestly I do not think anyone in Washington, regardless of political orientation, desires to make counts in SS or MC spending in the present. Both of thest programs have long term issues but those are not relevant to the current situation. All that we are talking about today revolves around roughly 29 billion dollars in interest debt service and how it will be paid. Discretionary or elective spending by the government matches defense spending by almost dollar per dollar based on the 2010 figures. SS and MC pulled in 70 billion more than they programs paid out...there is no basis to go after those programs on the short term as a solution to our woes. There is every reason to go after discrtionary spending and reduce that figure....no one on either side of the aisle wants to talke about it because that is their pork barrel...Americans need to demand that this be addressed. WB


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Good points, Wayne! There's another video with Congressman Kucinich in which he talks about how all this high-drama around the debt ceiling is just a smoke-screen to distract attention from the areas that really need to be addressed, such as the programs that you mention.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 5 years ago from UK

Hi Suzanne,thank you for this clear and easy to read article. I live in the UK, and I'm watching events as they unfold in America with a mixture of anxiety and disbelief. I saw on our news programme this morning that the debt ceiling is unlikely to be increased, and that this will almost certainly result in a big hike in interest rates. I expect the wealthy are already rubbing their hands in expectation of higher income on their savings. Meanwhile more and more people will lose their jobs as smaller businesses fail, and there is less money available amongst the lower strata of society to meet the spiralling cost of living. Too sad, and too scary.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, Amanda. Yes it is astounding that our government is being held hostage in this matter. Raising the debt ceiling should be, and has been, a simple and routine matter. Tying it to all these other issues is unnecessary and foolhardy.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

Susanne...Thank you for another balanced and factual article.

I agree completely with Ezra Klein's recommendations, but recognize that the GOP and Tea Party groups (who are using the debt crisis to further their own political agendas) would oppose each of them vehemently.

As long as a political party in this country (the GOP) is tied to the purse strings of corporations and the super wealthy, its Congressional members will continue to vote against the best interests of the average American. I can only hope that voters who are hurt by GOP tactics will use their collective vote next election to remove them from office.

Along with other Americans and the rest of the world, I wait to see what Congress will allow to happen by August 2. This impasse should never have happened, and the closer the deadline looms, the scarier the situation becomes to We, the People.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

I was livid as in reading an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch yesterday by a 40-something columnist that said "old people" are the problem in this country and that Congress should vote to end both Social Security and Medicare.

He stated that since 28% of people 65+ yrs old have savings of $207,000 or more, that it is morally wrong to give them (ANYONE) 65+ yrs old any more money or healthcare. Let the poor people save $207K, too.

Already, everything we pay in before we are 21 goes to pay for others and never hits our own accounts. Now if SS is ended, those of use that paid 1/2 the load (1/2 by employers) for many decades every week will not receive anything - That is the money we could have been saving and many employers already did away with insurance, vacations, sick time, etc., and CUT wages.

In a research article also in yesterday's paper, it was revealed that retirees receive only $12,000 yrly average from SS anyway, $14,000 Medicare benefits (but you still have to pay a monthly PREMIUM) - It keeps these people from starving, barely. Should 72%, many of whom worked far more than 40 hrs a week for decades without time off, now be forced to starve, because 28% saved money?

Anyone that says the people "should have saved" is misinformed, because 1,000s of American employers from 1975 - 2010 cut wages, cut benefits, eliminated insurance, downsized, and a whole lot worse; then turned around and opened jobs at lower wages. Yes, some "retirees" could never hold a job, but this us a small minority. The majority may have worked hard for nothing.

This is absurd, abusive, and a form of genocide.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Jaye - I hope we can get to the next election. People don't seem to realize how devastating going into default would be. Our government is holding on by a thread and falling into bankruptcy with hundreds of thousands of people in revolt could very quickly result in a declaration of martial law.

Patty ~ Yes, the kind of thinking you describe is very consistent with the thinking that was promoted in 1930s Germany:

Consider…

“The Nazis claimed that the social and economic problems that Germany experienced in the 1920s and early 1930s were due in part to the weakening of the population created by an unfair burden. “

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/fact/the_holocaust_and_d...

“During the 1930's, people with disabilities in Germany were referred to as ‘useless eaters‘. Nazi Germany targeted the disabled and the elderly as a drain on public resources.

http://www.chairgrrl.com/DisabilityTimeline/holoca...

There is no reason for any changes in SSI other than administrative changes, and We the People who have trusted our government to manage this money should surely not have it stolen from us.


Wrath Warbone profile image

Wrath Warbone 5 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

Thanks. I feel much better now.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

An eye-opening, truthful hub! Appreciate it very much. I am one of the majority who pay the rent/house payment with SS. It scare me. Thanks for your wonderful, informative hub! Rated UP!


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks! I'm glad you found it helpful! :)


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Suzanne – Congratulations on a well written Hub! At the beginning of the Social Security system it was presented as trust fund that you get out what you pay in. In really it’s become just another tax to fund entitlements. Social security funds have been borrowed against and used for everything under the sun.

What the government has actually done is spend all of this money and left a bunch of worthless IOU’s that tax payers will be forced to honor. The Social Security fund is a myth, Social Security recipients are paid out of current tax payer’s funds. The cruel truth is that for last 45 years the government has spent the retirement funds of the people! Thanks for sharing!- WBA


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

And the government has an obligation to pay it's debts to We the People, and social security needs to continue. Thanks for your comments.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Suzanne- While I agree that the government should pay its debts, I don't think they can, as evidenced by the recent credit downgrade. Even if the government dramatically raises the rate,(which would be foolish in a recession), there is little evidence that more revenue can be created. The only solution is to cut spending in the 3 major spending programs which are defense, medicare and Social Security,


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

No that is not the "only solution". We must and can generate revenue. The wealthy and corporations should be fairly taxed. Loopholes and tax breaks should be eliminated. The government should stop bailing out banks and oil companies that can surely afford to either pay their own debts or die trying. We must not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and needy. It won't work, and in the long run will end up costing more. However, we could surely cut defense spending a great deal and still have all the defense we will ever need and then some.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Suzanne- As it stands now, nearly 50% of all American’s pay no federal income tax at all, while the top 25% of wage earners pay 85% of all federal income taxes. How much more do you think you should or would get from them?

I’m all for closing loopholes, stopping bailouts and not giving certain businesses special favors. American corporations are among the highest taxed in the world as evidenced by the fact that US firms with foreign operations seldom bring their profits back to America because of the massive tax penalty. I don’t know how the budget can be balanced on the backs of the poor and needy if they no federal income tax- can you?


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

That's just nonsense. Where,exactly, do you get your figures?

People on Social Security, SSI, Disability, Welfare and unemployment all pay taxes. The working poor, whose income falls far below the poverty level pay taxes. Self-employed people whose income falls below the poverty level (such as myself) end up paying double taxes due to outrageous interest and penalties (due to being unable to pay all at once). Who, exactly are these 50% who don't pay taxes?

The top 25% do not pay 85% of the taxes. That's simply untrue. They do have 50% of the wealth in this country and they consist of only about 400 people.

US taxes on businesses are the lowest in the world, not the highest, and yet US companies with foreign operations give jobs to people in other countries and hide their money abroad to evade paying US taxes.

The budget can be balanced with a combination of judicious reductions,an end to bailouts and corporate welfare AND generating revenue by raising taxes on the wealthy, who only pay taxes on every 10th dollar they make - as opposed to ordinary people who pay on every dollar of income.


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Suzanne- It isn’t nonsense, my source is The Internal Revenue Service’s own figures, here’s the link: http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/indtaxstats/article/0,...

Or to see the IRS charts with information taken directly from the IRS go to this link: http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/250.html

Actually US corporate taxes are among the world’s highest, as evidence by the fact that US Corporations won’t bring money back into the US because of confiscatory corporate tax rates.

There is little evidence that raising the tax rates on higher income earners will generate additional revenue, in fact historically speaking the opposite is usually the case- more revenue is generated with lowering tax rates.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 5 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Finally some truth!


Sbjonez profile image

Sbjonez 5 years ago

Wba108Yahoo,

You are the perfect example of someone whose ignorance has been weaponized by ideologues bombarding you with talking points that convey false information. You demonstrate true cluelessness when it comes to economics, and you are completely wrong in both your historical interpretation of Social Security and just as thoroughly wrong as to how that program's finances are adminstered and accounted for.

Adding to these already woefully off the mark perspectives you flog with such apparently relentless fervor, other conclusions you reach based on all sorts of false data combined with a few tidbits of actual fact, totally miss the essential reasons for why certain things need to be the way they are. For instance, people having adjusted earnings levels that put them in the top 50% of the population do in fact pay the majority of individual income tax revenue every year, but that is as it should be because we have an increasing need for maintaining a strongly progressive tax structure as the wealthy are constantly increasing their share of wealth and overall income at the expense of the rest of the public and at the expense of both the treasury and the country itself. You apparently conclude,in your blinding ignorance, that the working classes at the bottom of the economic and social ladder should pay more while those at the top should be able to pay less. A recipe for disaster. You see this asking the little people to pay more as a feature; reality-based people who understand the dynamics of successful capitalist democracy see such an idiotic idea as a bug.

One final note; the nominal tax rate on US corporations is 35%. The 'effective tax rate', the average rate corporations pay in the real world, is under 16%, and for the largest corporations the effective rate is even lower. This means that the effective US corporate tax rate is lower than many other developed countries and is espcially lower than the BRIC countries, (which countries are kicking the US's ass economically in the nternational arena).

Once upon a time you may have had some critical thinking skills and were able to think for yourself and come to conclusions based on data you investigated yourself rather than being told what things meant by others. Maybe you'd be well served by working to recover some of that ability rather than parroting the rightwing talking points of the day and embarrassing yourself in the process.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Many thanks for your input Stephen!

And, yes, all, I do realize that's a very long comment; however, I invited Stephen to have a look at this and offer his opinion, so I'm going to make an exception. I apologize in advance for any horror, dreadfulness or other negative attributes that may be perceived regarding this decision.

@ ~ wba108@yahoo.com

I located this article:

http://financialedge.investopedia.com/financial-ed...

and think it may be where some of your conclusions come from. While I accede some of the numbers, I do not accede the interpretations. Additionally, I want to point out that the article does note the fact that "The tax tables, published annually by the government's Internal Revenue Service, tells only part of the story."

It goes on to explain that other types of taxes (aside from income taxes) are levied against some of the people who do not pay income taxes per se. Additionally, it explains that a large percentage of people in the lower 50% of income earners, while not paying "income taxes" do pay payroll taxes.

People using the assistance programs I have mentioned before also pay a form of "payroll tax" that is deducted directly from their checks.

The article also explains that some of the people who do not pay taxes are in the upper earning levels and (as Stephen points out) the taxes on corporations are not actual due to exceptions, loopholes and so on.

It seems (as this article states) that this is a much more complex issue than can be explained by reviewing the IRS charts. Stephen has pointed out some of the complexities, and this article points out others.

The bottom line is that balancing any budget involves both saving and generating more revenue, and that is what is needed here.


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

wba & tsadjatko, two reasons Coporations don't bring their profits back to the US is they don't have to according to the law and they get to keep more money. They moved off shore for one main reason, costs of labor, not taxes, the tax rate off shore is about 30% the rate in the US is 35% no big savings, but the labor for a textile worker in Haiti is 12 cents an hour while in the US it is at least a minimum wage of $7.40 per hour. You do the math, should we lower the our wages to that of Haiti so we compete? All your arguments are false and hold no water in the real world, only in your mind.

Peter


wba108@yahoo.com profile image

wba108@yahoo.com 5 years ago from upstate, NY

Suzanne- You and your friend made some good points. This issue requires a balanced and complete analysis. I'm not a total ignoramis as your friend as your friend contends, I have a BA in Economics from a very liberal college.


Sbjonez profile image

Sbjonez 5 years ago

Suzanne, I think it makes sense to want to restrict the length of stand-alone comments sometimes, but when a comment is responding to other remarks in a thread which are either bogus or mischaracterizations that mislead, or otherwise come across as bad faith remarks designed to disrupt or derail productive conversation forits own sake, then I think comments that attempt to call out such remarks should be allowed to be as long as necessary.


Sbjonez profile image

Sbjonez 5 years ago

A point of fact regarding federal taxes is that for the majority of workers in the bottom 50% of the work force, they typically pay more in Social Security and Medicare tax, (FICA), than they do in income tax. Also, they pay these taxes based on their entire income, whereas the folks in the upper income brackets only pay FICA based on the first $106,000 of income.

This is an inequity that needs to be fixed, and fixing it correctly will guarantee solvency for Social Security for the foreseeable future.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for all the good comments folks! :)


A Little TRUTH profile image

A Little TRUTH 5 years ago

Yes, it would be horrible to put so many people out on the streets who have really earned their way – but it makes for good news. As Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stated “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. [or even the threat of a crisis] And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Hold that thought and see what SOLUTION the wonderful government has cooked up for this looming crisis. Or maybe it’s purpose is just to keep people distracted.

Yes, raising the debt ceiling is usually a routine and quiet event, but once in a while they like to make a big fanfare about it. Apparently they like having this option as a tool, or they would just eliminate the debt ceiling altogether. It effectively doesn’t exist anyway since they always, always end up raising it.

Early on in the SS program, the government had people believing that their SS taxes would be saved up for their retirement – in some kind of a fund that would remain- hopefully with interest. But now the existence of the “benefits” are dependent on the debt ceiling? Something doesn’t click here. And if it was paid into a fund, and then you get it back, why would it be called “benefits”?


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, Truth...Yes, it's true, there is no reason for Social Security to be connected with raising the debt ceiling. It was just a GOP blackmail tactic.


SusieQ42 5 years ago

Hi Suzanne! I'm not really not well learned in the subject of politics but I do know my mom lives on a mere $700.00 a month on SS. Pretty sad that someone can actually survive on this little bit of money, and worse if SS were cut back even more. Thanks for the info. My husband is originally from Ohio. I'll have to ask him if he is familiar with Kucinich.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks, Susie!

Dennis Kucinich is the man who should be president!

Here is a lengthy, thoughtful interview with him that was done when he was in Wisconsin standing with the people in support of labor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExprkS8d7Fw&NR=1

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