Social security

We support increasing Social Security benefits so that every American is guaranteed a reasonable standard of living in retirement.

From the Democratic Party platform:

We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits. Democrats will expand Social Security so that every American can retire with dignity and respect, including women who are widowed or took time out of the workforce to care for their children, aging parents, or ailing family members.

From the Republican Party platform:

We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the “Third Rail” of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it. The Democratic Party still treats it that way, even though everyone knows that its current course will lead to a financial and social disaster. Younger Americans have lost all faith in the program and expect little return for what they are paying into it. As the party of America’s future, we accept the responsibility to preserve and modernize a system of retirement security forged in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans.

Current retirees and those close to retirement can be assured of their benefits. Of the many reforms being proposed, all options should be considered to preserve Social Security. As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system. Saving Social Security is more than a challenge. It is our moral obligation to those who trusted in the government’s word.

Polling on this issue:

When asked if we should “Increase Social Security benefits and pay for that increase by having the wealthy pay the same rate into Social Security as everyone else.”  70% supported this approach, with 17% opposed, and 12% neutral or no response. This included 83% of Democratic voters, with 7% opposed and 9% neutral; 63% of independent voters, with 19% opposed and 17% neutral; and 62% of Republican voters, with 22% opposed and 16% neutral. (From a poll by GBA Strategies.)

Our view:

The Republican Party platform doesn’t come right out and say it clearly, but the reference to “the power of markets” makes it clear that they have not given up on their scheme to privatize the social security system.  We agree with the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders, and 70% of the voters polled that social security benefits should be expanded and that this expansion of benefits could be easily financed by removing the current cap on income subject to the taxes that support the Social Security system.

For 2015, the maximum amount of income subject to Social Security taxes was $118,500.  Anyone earning over that amount paid an effective tax rate that is lower (in terms of the percentage of their income) than those earning less than that amount.  This means that the tax supporting Social Security is a regressive tax.  By removing this cap and making it a flat tax, we could expand benefits and/or lower the rate paid by all – preferably some combination of the two.