Social Security

Picture of social security card surrounded by old pennies nickels dimes quarters
Picture of social security card surrounded by old pennies nickels dimes quarters

Social Security is and should remain the ultimate “safety net” for present and future generations of seniors. Jan is committed to protecting the system and restoring its financial health.

Social Security currently provides more than half of their income for two-thirds of all seniors in this country and 90 percent for more than one-third – and commensurately alleviates anxieties and potential burdens for their children and grandchildren. We should secure and expand the system, not privatize it or reduce benefits. Eliminating or at least raising the Social Security cap or taxable maximum, $118,500 for 2015 and 2016, is a long-overdue corrective that would go a long way toward both preserving and improving the system. Cracking down on abuses, especially misclassification by employers of workers as independent contractors instead of employees, will also get considerably more money into the system. Jan favors such proposals.

Other proposed solutions, however, risk fundamentally altering the purpose and nature of Social Security. Increasing the retirement age further will disadvantage workers who are unable to perform more physical and lower paid work after age 66 or 67, compared to wealthier and typically healthier individuals. Tampering with benefits formulas, either the initial primary insurance amount or cost-of-living adjustments, can threaten the independence of vulnerable seniors dependent on the system and tend commensurately to burden their families. Means testing would fundamentally change the system from one of earned social insurance to a species of welfare. Nor does it seem essentially fair and reasonable to both scrap the cap and means test receipt of benefits, up to 85% of which are already subject to taxation. Jan opposes such measures.

Individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans and other private retirement arrangements are good things, and it may even be good policy to provide additional tax incentive for investing in them — provided that they are in addition to, not instead of, all or any portion of Social Security. Privatizing or partially privatizing Social Security would unduly subject retirement security to market vagaries, with the difficulties exacerbated for those who need to retire in the midst of a serious downturn or recession. In any event, what seems virtually certain is that privatization would leave lower-income retirees with less security.

The simple fact remains that most Americans are woefully unprepared for retirement. The Social Security safety net is still vitally needed.