The Congressional Super Committee to cut the budget deficit, due to report soon, has let it be known that it will cut Social Security benefits. Let me be short and sour about this. It is a public relations stunt. They basically say so. All this is about is showing the world America is serious about cutting its long-term deficit. The nation has the guts to do what it takes. It is no bleeding heart country. It is willing to beat up on the elderly.
Other allegedly serious Democratic economists from fancy institutions have made the same argument. The reason is simple. You seemingly can make modest adjustments to Social Security to dent or even eliminate the projected longer-run shortfall. You can’t do that with Medicare.
In exchange for these Social Security cuts, the Democrats expect the Republicans to consider tax increases. They are probably going to be rolled again by the intransigent Republicans, who believe avoiding all taxes on the rich is the sure path to infinite re-electability.
So let’s be clear. The Social Security Administration projects that benefits will rise by one percent of GDP from five percent to six percent over the next 20 years or so and then stabilize or even fall a bit due to the rising elderly population. One percent. That’s what all this is about.
This increase can be covered completely by raising payroll taxes by 6.2 to 7.2 percent for workers and employers. All of it can be covered by eliminating the cap on Social Security taxes, now about $109,000 a year. Even though it’s not practical, raising the cap to the point where it covers 90 percent of wages earned — the original level — would go a long way to paying for benefits.