7 changes Americans are willing to make to fix social security

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There are only 13 years before Social Security may not be able to pay all the benefits, according to a recent annual report by the program administrators.

In 2035, only 80% of the benefits will be paid if Congress does not terminate the program first.

Supporting the program will generally mean raising taxes, cutting benefits, or a combination of both. Democrats have tabled several proposals to increase benefits and raise taxes, including a House bill that they hope to bring to a vote this year. Republicans have expressed their opposition to their plans.

Despite the stalemate in Washington, the University of Maryland Public Consultation Program has found that there are a number of changes that public voters who are Republicans or Democrats may be able to endure.

The program conducted a public consultation survey of 2,545 registered voters between April 11 and May 15.

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The questions were presented as a mock decision-making process, according to Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland.

The options were presented one at a time, with pro and con arguments being scrutinized by experts on both sides of the corridor. Each choice included the grades and potential deficit impact of the program.

Respondents tended to spread their choices to include some revenue increases and some budget cuts, according to Kull. Most didn’t peak on one side or the other.

Here are seven fixes Americans say they’re willing to make, starting with the most popular:

1. Increase in the social security payroll tax ceiling

  • Share in support: 81%
  • Democrats in support: 88%
  • Republicans in support: 79%

The increase in the payroll tax cap is the only proposal that has garnered “overwhelming bipartisan support,” according to Kull.

In 2022, Social Security payroll taxes are applied up to $ 147,000 in income, a level that is adjusted annually. This means that high-income workers can only pay Social Security payroll taxes for part of the year.

However, a democratic proposal – Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust put forward by Representative John Larson, D-Conn. – asks to reapply those payroll taxes for wages of $ 400,000 and above. Another bill proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., And Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Require a $ 250,000 threshold, plus additional tax on capital gains and net investment and business income.

Increasing the income level at which Social Security payroll taxes are reapplied to income above $ 400,000 would eliminate 61 percent of the deficit, the researchers estimate. The proposal is popular with the public, having earned its own slogan, “Scrap the Cap”.

2. Reduce benefits for high incomes

  • Share in support: 81%
  • Democrats in support: 86%
  • Republicans in support: 78%

Wealthier retirees generally receive more generous benefits, although they likely have more ways to finance their retirements, such as through pensions and savings. It means that testing benefits for those with wealth or income could be another way to help reduce the program deficit.

This would reduce the amount of benefits that the top 20% of income earners receive and reduce the deficit by 11%.

3. Gradual raising of the retirement age

  • Share in support: 75%
  • Democrats in support: 76%
  • Republicans in support: 75%

Your retirement age is when you can get all the benefits you have earned based on your work record. The increases in the retirement age enacted in 1983 are still being introduced today. For people born after 1960, the full retirement age is 67.

As many people work and live longer, some argue that the retirement age should be raised again. However, advocates of expanding social security are firmly opposed to this reduction in benefits. The Washington Democrats’ proposals largely rule out this change.

Such a move would reduce about 14% of the deficit.

4. Increase the payroll tax

  • Share in support: 73%
  • Democrats in support: 78%
  • Republicans in support: 70%

Currently, employers and employees each pay a tax of 6.2% of the salary and increasing those rates could have a big impact on the solvency of the program. The simulation was to increase it to 6.5%, which would help eliminate 16% of the deficit.

An earlier version of the Social Security 2100 Act put forward by Rep John Larson, D-Conn., Proposed increasing payroll tax rates for both workers and employers by up to 7.4% each from the current 6.2 %. This change would be phased in over more than 20 years. This would only cost an extra 50 cents a week for the average worker earning $ 50,000, according to the proposal.

While Larson likened it to the cost of a cup of coffee, Republicans were irritated by the prospect of passing higher tax rates to younger generations. The new Social Security 2100 Act no longer increases the payroll tax rate.

5. Increase of the minimum benefit

  • Share in support: 64%
  • Democrats in support: 71%
  • Republicans in support: 59%

For people who rely solely on social security benefits for retirement income, surviving on the minimum benefit can be difficult. Sanders and Warren have proposed a bill calling for the minimum benefit to be indexed to 125% of the federal poverty line. Likewise, Larson’s bill also seeks to increase the minimum benefit.

Such a change would bring the minimum benefit for someone who has worked for 30 years down to $ 1,341 from $ 951, thereby increasing the deficit by 7%.

The Congressional Democrats’ social security proposals call for the price index currently used to determine annual cost-of-living adjustments to be replaced by the Consumer Price Index for Seniors, or CPI-E.

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6. Modification of the cost of living adjustment calculations

  • Share in support: 55%
  • Democrats in support: 59%
  • Republicans in support: 55%

Social security benefits are currently adjusted annually on the basis of a subset of the consumer price index, which measures changes in the prices consumers pay over time. Beneficiaries have seen a record 5.9% increase in 2022 and are poised to see an even greater increase in benefits in 2023.

Yet many argue that the measure used, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Employees and Employees, or CPI-W, is not the best indicator of the costs paid by retirees. Democratic proposals all call for the replacement of this measure by the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly, or CPI-E.

Such a change would increase the deficit by 12%.

7. Increase in benefits for beneficiaries over the age of 80

  • Share in support: 53%
  • Democrats in support: 56%
  • Republicans in support: 53%

Increasing benefits by 5% for beneficiaries over the age of 80 would increase the deficit by 5%. To be sure, the increased benefits would not help the program’s funding problems. But they can help ensure that retirees can cover their costs for the duration of retirement.

The survey’s goal is not to stand aside, according to Kull.

“We don’t take a position except the position that the public should be heard,” Kull said.

“The public wants it badly,” he said of the results.

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