How to Make Social Security More Generous Without Hurting Its Finances

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Here’s Dylan Matthews on a great new bill from Mark Begich. Can we get Bob Casey to co-sponsor this?

But if one wants to make the program solvent indefinitely without endangering vulnerable seniors, there are options. A new bill from Sen. Mark Begich (D-Ark.), theProtecting and Preserving Social Security Act, provides one method.

The Begich bill would lift the current payroll tax cap, which exempts wages in excess of a certain amount ($110,100 this year) from the tax. In turn, it would give high earners, who would pay more, additional benefits upon retirement, just as benefits increase as wages do for workers below the cap.

According to the Congressional Research Service, a change like that would almost entirely wipe out the program’s long-run actuarial imbalance. Specifically, it would eliminate 95 percent of the shortfall, meaning that a mild increase in the payroll tax rate from 12.4 percent to 12.5 percent would be enough to cover the tiny remaining gap. And without any changes at all, the program would be able to pay out full benefits until after 2085. Indeed, the exhaustion date for the trust fund following such a change is so far in the future that CRS didn’t even calculate it.

But Begich’s bill doesn’t just increase taxes for high earners. It also increases benefits across-the-board. While Bowles-Simpson and Domenici-Rivlin adopt a stingier “chained CPI” measure for inflation, Begich adopts “CPI-E,” or a measure that specifically captures inflation in goods that seniors buy.

Due to deteriorated health and other considerations, goods seniors buy tend to be more expensive than those younger people purchase. Begich’s CPI-E change would mean, effectively, a 4.5 percent benefit increase for the program’s beneficiaries, including not just seniors but their designated survivors and disabled Americans as well.

This entry was posted in Budget.

2 Responses to How to Make Social Security More Generous Without Hurting Its Finances

  1. Kenneth D Scott says:

    This is one of the greatest bills I have read about….let our Nation move forward.

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