Social Security

Options for Saving Social Security

The Center for Retirement Research argues that over 50 percent of today’s workers will not have adequate income when they retire, and this number will jump to approximately 66 percent if you take health and long-term care costs into account. The contention is that hourly wage earners will not have the ability to replace disappearing pensions and lower net Social Security benefits (primarily because of health care and drug costs) with private savings. This is attributable primarily to the fact that median household incomes have been stagnant over the past 40 years. At the same time, many-core expenses such as housing, health care, and education have grown substantially.

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According to a recent report released by the trustees of the Social Security Trust Fund, the Social Security Administration is spending more each year in benefits than it is taking in regarding payroll taxes and money earned on trust fund reserves. As a result, Social Security reserves are projected to be exhausted by 2034.

Congress, ready or not, will be forced to address this issue shortly because the first generation of workers affected by these converging trends — the decline of employer pensions, phased-in cuts to net Social Security benefits, and decades of slow and unequal wage growth-are just now starting to retire. What options are available to avert the potential retirement woes of working-class individuals who will be retiring over the next two decades? Among the policy options now being considered are:

Raising payroll taxes,
Increasing the annual wage ceiling on which payroll taxes are paid. The ceiling for 2020 will be $142,800,
Basing the annual cost-of-living increase on a less-generous measure of consumer prices than is now used,
Implementing an across-the-board decrease in retiree’s benefits,
Reducing benefits for higher-paid earners,
Raising the retirement age, or
Increasing taxes on high-income wage earners.

The impact of these proposed changes on the Social Security System is available from an interactive “Social Security Tool” that has been developed by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.* This tool, allows an analyst to make changes in six program features (with three possible changes to each feature). Your responsibility, as a newly hired staff member by Senator Rawson, your task is to assess how various alterations to the Social Security program will impact program finances. In your analysis, you need to consider the demographic changes that are taking place in the United States.

Based upon your analysis of the outputs of the various possible changes to Social Security which options would you recommend that Senator Rawson pursue as a way of lessening the retirement woes of millions of working-class Americans over the coming decades? In your five-seven (5-7) page report (see instructions below) to Senator Rawson be sure to specify the evaluative criteria you will be used in making your assessment and also justify your recommendations in terms of whether the options you choose are cost-effective, politically feasible, socially acceptable, and/or equitable.

*The Penn Wharton Budget Model’s Social Security Policy Simulator can be found at For more information on Social Security check on this:

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