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Fixing the Social Security shortfall

To the Editor:

As a recipient of Social Security and Medicare I am concerned about the recent proposals for fixing the Social Security shortfall, which seem to place the entire burden on the lower and middle income groups. Some of these proposals would raise the retirement age to 70 and price-index benefits while leaving the earnings cap which benefits wealthy recipients largely untouched. The 2010 U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Report lists various steps that can be taken to reduce the shortfall together with the percentage of shortfall each would reduce. Some of these proposals would assure that all the stakeholders in Social Security would share equally in the financial sacrifice to fix the system.

For example:

The Earnings Cap: Eliminating the cap but counting the earnings toward higher benefits would resolve 95 percent of the shortfall! This would be very popular with all those workers who now must pay Social Security taxes on their entire income if they earn less than $113,700, which applies to about 94 percent of all workers in the U.S. Right now workers who earn more than $113,700 pay Social Security taxes on only $113,700, anything they earn above that amount is tax free. Paying 6.2 percent on all their income should not result in financial hardship for the 6 percent of the population making $113.700 plus per year, especially since their earnings will be counted toward higher benefits!

Social Security Taxes: Increasing worker and employer contributions by 1.1 percentage points would reduce the shortfall by 104 percent. I believe this increase would be accepted if workers would have an iron-clad guarantee that they will receive their full Social Security pension when they retire. Right now workers are angry and frustrated because they fear they will be paying all this money and yet, when they retire, the Social Security system will not be there for them.

Cost of Living Adjustment: Reduced by 1 percentage point each year, it would resolve 78 percent of the shortfall. Reduced by .5 percentage point would resolve 40 percent. This should not be an undue hardship for most seniors and I think most of us seniors are concerned enough about the future of our children and grandchildren to be willing to make this sacrifice.

Combining these proposals would resolve at least 199 percent of the shortfall, so neither a reduction in benefits, nor an increase of the retirement age to 70 years would be necessary. Unfortunately, in the past all these proposals for fixing Social Security have met fierce opposition in Congress, with members of both parties wiling to consider only those proposals which are guaranteed to get them re-elected and keep their party in power. If this attitude continues, I fear not only for the future of our Social Security system, but for the future of our Democracy.

Let us hope that the love for our great country and our democratic system of government will prevail and Republicans and Democrats will decide, for the good of the country, to work together and develop a plan that saves the Social Security system and guarantees that it will be available for years to come.

Ingrid Kizen

New Richmond