A Social Compact For 21st Century America

Tue Oct 14, 2014 10:54:02AM | Categories: Social Security, Government Benefits & Great Depression

Elderly people walking on a beachBy: Public Domain
Of all the pieces of legislation that came about to help dig America out of the Great Depression, none had a greater impact than the Social Security Act. This single piece of legislation and subsequent amendments expanding the eligible number of recipients dramatically rewrote the social compact between the federal government and the citizens it governs. This program has helped keep millions of American citizens from slipping into poverty and helped subsidize the incomes of millions more, ensuring food is kept on tables and roofs are kept overhead. These accomplishments are hard to overstate, but that doesn't mean that we can pat ourselves on the back and claim victory. Changing times require us to adapt and adapt is what we must do if we want to keep Social Security solvent for future generations. It is time for us to reinvent Social Security in the 21st Century.

There is perhaps no other piece of legislation so universally accepted by liberal and conservative alike as Social Security. The goals behind the legislation have been largely achieved and the idea that a senior citizen will not go hungry is embedded into our national psyche. In the same breath, there are multiple warning signs that we need to act so we can ensure this program can continue. The battle lines have been drawn and thoroughly debated throughout the past decade. Many on the right, not surprisingly, wish to turn the program into a free-for-all in the stock market. Thankfully that plan crashed and burned after Democrats stood together to block President Bush's 2005 proposal. So what else can we do if we don't want to gamble with our hard earned money in the stock market? We can gradually raise and eventually eliminate the Social Security payroll tax cap.

It may surprise many people that individuals only pay Social Security taxes on their first $117,000 of taxable income. This means that some multimillionaires and billionaires are done paying into the Social Security trust fund by the end of the first week of the year while the poor and middle class pay a disproportional amount of their incomes towards the same program. I, for one, find this unacceptable. There is no excuse to keep the cap artificially low and the negative consequences of doing so are tough to calculate. It is time for us to act before it is too late because the Baby-Boomers are not getting any younger.

The Social Security amendments of 1977 explicitly stated that ninety percent of a taxpayers income should fall under the Social Security tax. The cap is adjusted on an annual basis to try to keep up with the changes in earnings, but the massive rise of income inequality between the rich and poor has made that a moot point.

There have been proposals in the Democratically controlled Senate to do exactly what I'm calling for, but Republican filibusters and Democratic infighting has made any progress an uphill fight. Add in the fact that the House of Representatives has no appetite to do anything about this and it is not surprising that any meaningful legislation has stalled. Now is not the time to give up though.

We must act to ensure Social Security stays alive for future generations. The gradual elimination of the payroll tax cap is the way to accomplish this goal. Join me in convincing our leaders that they must work for the average citizen in this country and not just the wealthy among us. It is not a crime to be rich and we should not demonize those who are successful in this country, but we should not bend over backwards to make the rich happy on the backs of the poor and middle-class.

Join me in reaching out to your Senator and Congressperson and ask them to bring this issue back to the forefront. Future generations of Americans will thank you.

Contact your Representative and your Senators and tell them to get to work. We can and must have a Social Security for the 21st Century.
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