Response: Yes, people are living longer, but the poor die earlier and get fewer years of benefits. Also, working longer is easier for the people with desk jobs like Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady who support this change. Raising the age is especially unfair to people with physically demanding, low-wage jobs.
d. Cut benefits to the affluent.
Response: Sounds good, but I worry about losing the idea that SS is a system into which everyone contributes and from which everyone gets something. If the affluent got less or nothing, they'd agitate to limit their contributions and they might attack SS as a welfare program. That could make it easier for the Party of Bads and Stupids to undermine SS.
People who support SS should encourage Americans to be proud of it. It is good that we take care of one another through our government. Computer guy John Doe in Oregon and his employer contribute 12.4% of wages every month so that Georgia retiree Alice Jefferson, who used to work at Wal-Mart, gets her monthly check. That's good.
5. Two Vital Reforms. We should raise minimum benefits so that fewer recipients are poor or nearly poor; and we should eliminate the ceiling on taxable income. The latter offers a simple solution to SS's fiscal shortage, but also, along with higher minimum payments, it would make America a little less unequal. Reforming SS is part of the broad campaign against inequality--a campaign that has made a remarkable start in minimum-wage movements around the country.
Learn More. I encourage Bob and Sarah to learn more about SS, to engage family and friends on the topic, and to weigh in with their political representatives. There are hundreds of useful sources including good newspapers, the official site at ssa.gov, the Alliance for Retired Americans, socialsecurityworks.org, Economic Policy Institute at epi.org, strengthensocialsecurity.org., and www.heritage.org.
Frank Stricker is Emeritus Professor of History, California State University, Dominguez Hills. He has written about poverty and has just finished American Unemployment: A New History, Explanations, Remedies.
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