IN MY OPINION
now can save Social Security
If our leaders can get past
politics, we'll keep essential program intact
The Democrats say there is a Social Security crisis
caused by the Republican tax cuts. The Republicans say
the tax cuts have nothing to do with the Social
Security crisis and that the crisis could have been
eliminated if the Democrats hadn't killed President
Bush's bill allowing some Social Security money to be
invested in private accounts.
Peter Diamond and Peter Orszag of the Brookings
Institute think tank say there is no crisis that a few
nips and tucks here and there cannot cure.
Everybody agrees that Social Security is very
important to people reaching retirement age. It is
most of the income for two-thirds of them and all the
income for 20 percent of them. If no changes are made,
it will cover promised benefits for the next 38 years,
according to trustees of the Social Security
administration. It will cover 70 percent of promised
benefits through 2078.
So, what kind of nips and tucks do the Brookings
people recommend to take care of the gap after 38
years? There are several.
A payroll tax increase would be a start. Wouldn't
working people be willing to pay a little more all
along so that retirement money would be assured? I
think they would, even though no tax increase is ever
Another way to make up the difference would be to
make modest cuts in benefits for new Social Security
For example, a 45-year-old worker would get 1
percent less when he reaches retirement age, with
larger cuts for younger age groups. This would be in
addition to the increase in Social Security taxes.
Of course, if the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were
cut back by half, that would also eliminate the gap in
Social Security funds.
Social Security came into existence in 1935. Since
then, many businesses and industries have supplemented
it with pension plans. Unfortunately, it now appears
that those pension plans are disappearing. That makes
Social Security even more important.
The crisis cited by Democrats and Republicans alike
is years away, but we cannot afford to wait until it
is upon us to find a cure. The longer we wait, the
more drastic the cure will have to be. By acting now,
the cure can be almost painless.
People who are now drawing Social Security need not
fear that their government checks will be reduced.
Every plan that has been considered by Congress leaves
your check alone.
All the plans considered or proposed only affect
those who will start getting Social Security in the
future. If Congress can get its act together, even
they will hardly notice the difference.
There is absolutely no reason to have a war between
the generations. No plan calls for the old to be
supported by the young. But we who are on Social
Security now should actively encourage our congressmen
to deal realistically with the situation. We do not
want our children and grandchildren to suffer because
our representatives choose to be politicians rather
J.A. West, a retired lawyer who lives at Moss
Lake, writes about senior issues.