September 12 2011
Policy Focus: The Need for Social Security Reform
Republicans and Democrats increasingly acknowledge that reforming Social Security needs to be a part of our long-term debt solution.
As we start this discussion about the future of Social Security, seniors need to understand that Social Security reform is really about how the program will work for future generations. No one proposes cutting benefits for those depending on Social Security today.
However, Social Security cannot last as currently structured. Social Security operates under what’s called a “pay-as-you-go” system, which means it relies on revenue from today’s payroll taxes to pay current beneficiaries. As the number of retirees grows, there won’t be enough people paying in to pay all promised benefits.
This problem will get worse unless something is done to bring Social Security’s costs down. The good news is changes to Social Security’s benefits can be structured so reductions in future benefits affect only those well above the poverty line.
Ultimately, people should consider if Social Security is really the best retirement plan that we can give the next generation. Young workers would be better served by an ownership system, in which a portion of their payroll taxes are saved in a personal account for their own retirement.
But in the short-term, Washington needs to have serious conversations about how to reform Social Security so that it is sustainable and doesn’t bury the next generation under debt.