Social Security security
By Jody Reese
If there was one thing that we as a society could do to keep 40 percent of seniors out of poverty, and it completely paid for itself, would we do it?
That’s hard to say today, but 75 years ago we did and it created the single largest government program in the history of mankind and the most successful.
Social Security almost single-handedly transformed America from dust bowls and tent cities to massive adult living complexes like The Villages in Florida advertised on late-night TV. Today it accounts for about 5 percent of our economy.
It almost seems too good to be true. So much so that 60 percent of Americans don’t believe it will be around for them.
That’s a bleak outlook. If it were true more seniors would fall into poverty and I’d want my money back.
Of every dollar that most of us earn, about 13 cents goes to pay for Social Security, half paid by us and half paid by our employer. Right now Social Security has a surplus of more than $2.6 trillion. Even with everyone living longer, the system as it is will be able to pay out full benefits for 20 to 30 more years. The system is not likely to collapse.
But some changes are needed to make sure that this valuable program never is diminished.
Because we’re living so much longer, raising the benefit age for people entering the workforce now seems reasonable. Congress did this in the early 1980s and it’s now just taking effect. The new debt commission suggests moving the full-benefit age up to 69, two years older than the current age, for people who start to retire in 2075. Reduced benefits are available for people retiring earlier. Incredibly, those small tweaks will likely maintain Social Security past all of our lives.
So this Thanksgiving let’s all be thankful that in 1935 we created the second-most-successful tool for improving people’s lives that this planet has ever seen, Social Security. The first? The free market. Who says you can’t have both?
Good news: Check out this week’s Quality of Life for some good news.