The Center for Economic and Policy Research has released a new report looking at the effect of raising or lifting the payroll tax cap on Social Security contributions.Incredibly, most people still don?t realize that workers who earn more than $110,100 don?t contribute on their full income and that simply removing that tax loophole for high earners would close the vast majority of Social Security?s modest long-term funding gap. Legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) would apply the same payroll tax already paid by more than 9 out of 10 Americans to those with incomes over $250,000 a year. Making the wealthiest Americans pay the same payroll tax already assessed on those with lower incomes should be a no-brainer and it is the solution Americans prefer rather than cutting already modest Social Security benefits.Lifting the cap also recaptures income lost to Social Security because of the growing income inequality in this nation that has allowed a growing number of wealthy Americans to avoid paying their fair share. Robert Reich describes how:
Back in 1983, the ceiling was set so the Social Security payroll tax would hit 90 percent of all wages covered by Social Security. That 90 percent figure was built into the Greenspan Commission’s fixes. The Commission assumed that, as the ceiling rose with inflation, the Social Security payroll tax would continue to hit 90 percent of total income.Today, though, the Social Security payroll tax hits only about 84 percent of total income. It went from 90 percent to 84 percent because a larger and larger portion of total income has gone to the top. In 1983, the richest 1 percent of Americans got 11.6 percent of total income. Today the top 1 percent takes in more than 20 percent.If we want to go back to 90 percent, the ceiling on income subject to the Social Security tax would need to be raised to $180,000. Presto. Social Security’s long-term (beyond 26 years from now) problem would be solved.
Unfortunately, rather than embrace lifting the payroll tax cap, many Republicans and Democrats alike now seem to be rallying behind the Bowles-Simpson (BS) plan, which proposes two-thirds benefit cuts over one-third income increases.Ask your member of Congress?does he/she support cutting benefits for middle-class Americans rather than restoring contributions by the wealthy to their historic levels?