Making Social Security solvent – really

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has a calculator where you can enter a combination of revenue and benefit changes and instantly see the impact on the SS trust’s solvency.

You probably recall the rhetoric about taxing incomes above $400,000 or changing to the CPI-E, among others.

There are several routes to long-term solvency. I put in these changes:

  • Increase the payroll tax by 3%
  • Apply the payroll tax to all payroll earning.

The result was this: Under your plan Social Security will be sustainably solvent for the next 75 years and beyond.

On the other hand, if you enter some of the political proposal to improve benefits like using the CPI-E for the COLA and providing a minimum benefit of 125% of the poverty level you get: “Social Security remains insolvent. The trust fund will run out in 2033 at which point all beneficiaries will face a sudden 23% benefit cut.

There is no painless solution no matter the rhetoric implying otherwise. There is no way to increase benefits without making the trust less solvent. BUT ONE THING IS CERTAIN. The longer Congress avoids its responsibility to fix the problem real solutions will be more painful

9 comments

  1. All good options. However, there is a relatively painless option – let each taxpayer and beneficiary decide how they want to fill the gap.

    Why should you or me or Congress get to decide how to fill the gap that resulted from past, deliberate, inadequate funding? We should demand a variant of the typical corporate annual enrollment process. Each of the choices would be inter-generationally equitable which leaves the relative burdens unchanged – that is the status quo is maintained (just more taxes and/or less benefits, as decided by each and every individual taxpayer, and beneficiary).

    Each option would be priced and repriced annually for anti selection. So, a taxpayer and/or beneficiary can change their mind – if they decide that the “poison” option they chose for last year isn’t the one they want for this year. That is, can change their minds if they want each subsequent year.

    However, to make this a reality, Congress should freeze everything about Social Security as it stands today. Then, the pricing would focus solely on filling the funding gap. If Congress wanted to make any future change in Social Security, it would require the change be sustainable, and would require a super majority vote of taxpayers – 75% + 1 (where a non-vote is a no vote).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL indeed. To make the proposal work, you would need a default election, as most Americans would likely not take even one minute to make a choice, and, unless you require a super majority vote of taxpayers to change Social Security, you are just wasting your time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t worry. The latest bill in Congress as of late 10/21 puts the 2033 date for reducing benefits off until 2038 to give Congress time to clear things up.
    The bill also has some moving parts that aren’t worth discussing unless it gets some traction. It would, however, stick it to the over 400k per year crowd. So you can rest easy for 5 more years.

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    1. There have been several bills introduced, including Social Security 2100 and they go nowhere.

      Dick Richard D Quinn Blogging at Quinnscommentary.net and HumbleDollar.com Twitter @quinnscomments

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  3. One thing is for sure. Nothing will be done to fix Social Security until after the November elections and Congress might even increase the entitlements to buy votes.

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    1. You have a good point

      Dick Richard D Quinn Blogging at Quinnscommentary.net and HumbleDollar.com Twitter @quinnscomments

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      1. Just imagine the vote buying this year. Last year seniors were begging for more Covid relief funds even when their income was totally unaffected by Covid. How loud will they be screaming this year that they need a large COLA or special checks to deal with inflation? And it was the special checks and the printing of money that contributed greatly to the current inflation rate even before the Ukraine war which will be factored in over the next few months.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. 2030 or later before Congress passes a bill that will fix SS.

      And increasing the 12.4% SS portion of FICA is not the answer – its just the easy to explain & understand fix, but decreases what little low income earners should save on their own. Instead, tax all earned income AFTER adding a 3rd break point in the benefits calculation to max current benefits to phase out 15% adder after 2nd break point. Once 2nd reaches 3rd break point then move the max with the 2nd break point annual adjusted increases. And eliminate 8% delay credits over time by adjusting FRA to 68 for those born in 1980-1999, 69 for those born in 2000-2019, 70 for those born in 2020+.

      Liked by 1 person

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