With all political parties conceding the need for long term reform of Social Security, my letter last month proposed such a reform, and asked writers to challenge it. While conceding that we can’t make changes to current recipients, or those close to retirement, I simply proposed that long term we should set benefits based on time worked rather than dollars earned, and have a reasonable maximum benefit.
The basic problem with the current system of setting benefits is that it does not pay enough to those who need it most, and it pays too much to those who don’t. This change would solve that problem, and it could be done without means testing. It’s important that Social Security treats everyone the same.
I noted that this is not that radical. It maintains the essential tie-in to personal performance and decisions, which keeps it an earned benefit rather than an entitlement. Younger workers could have their current accounts converted to comparable time credits, taxes could continue to be paid as now, and there would be no shock to the economy.
There has been only one response to my proposal. Mike Kohn notes that while I define Social Security as a tax-supported social program, he properly notes that it is better defined as government-administered retirement insurance. He details the legislative history of the program, and recommends removing the cap on FICA deductions to raise more revenue for the dedicated funds. I agree with all of that.
My challenge remains. Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, seniors, juniors, lawyers, accountants, actuaries — anybody. Tell me why this change couldn’t, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be made, and why it wouldn’t improve the system and make it affordable and sustainable for our children and grandchildren.
John A. Ristow