Social Security’s impending doom has been foretold since before the first benefit check was ever delivered. The crisis calls are familiar:
“Social Security is bankrupt!”
“The trust fund isn’t real!”
“We have to cut benefits!”
The truth is very different. Social Security remains strong and will be able to pay full benefits until 2034. After that, there will still be enough income coming into the program to pay 79% of all benefits. But with an average monthly benefit of just $1,300, most beneficiaries cannot afford a 21% benefit cut, and that’s why Congress must pass modest reforms, as it has many times before.
Doing nothing is not an option. However, in this hyper-partisan environment where cutting benefits is worn as a badge of courage with little thought to what those cuts actually mean to working Americans, it’s virtually impossible to engage in a meaningful debate.
Raising the retirement age, cutting the cost-of-living adjustment, privatization and means testing are all benefit cut proposals touted by the billion dollar anti-entitlement lobby and its supporters in Congress as the best ways to close Social Security’s shortfall. The American people support an entirely different approach. Poll after poll, including an important public survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance, show that large bipartisan majorities want to improve benefits and are willing to pay more to stabilize and strengthen the program.
There is no reason for Social Security benefit cuts that would force vulnerable Americans to bear an even greater financial burden than they already do. The fiscal woes of this nation are not due to this worker-funded program, which currently has $2.8 trillion in its trust fund.
Numerous proposals languishing in Congress would extend Social Security’s solvency while also improving benefits by lifting the payroll tax cap, adopting a cost-of-living adjustment for the elderly, expanding the minimum benefit and boosting benefits overall. These are reasonable reforms that deserve consideration.
Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.