We all regularly read the experts’ predictions of doom and gloom for the fiscal future of the Social Security trust funds. Changing American demographics with Baby Boomers reaching retirement age in record numbers will impact the funding of future benefits.
While the facts and figures are well known, solutions have proven elusive. Congress seems afraid to tackle the issue because of the infamous “third rail of politics” fear for re-election. “Think tank” solutions seem biased based upon the political tendencies underlying the researchers.
Voice Of the People (VOP), is a new organization founded to increase citizens’ involvement with government policy. VOP has taken a novel approach to researching a comprehensive solution that appears to have bipartisan political support. Using researchers from the University of Maryland, and a study group statistically representative of the general United States population, VOP developed a series of possible solutions to funding Social Security into the future.
Before presenting alternative ideas to the research group for consideration, VOP had all of ideas vetted by both Democratic and Republican policy officials from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who deal with Social Security issues, along with the National Academy of Social Insurance and the American Enterprise Institute.
After being given background information on the Social Security programs and issues, getting arguments both for and against each possible solution, and being given data showing how each solution interacted with others to impact the result, a consensus developed to eliminate most of the Social Security windfall.
Overwhelming bipartisan majorities endorsed the following measures to help solve future Social Security shortfalls:
1. Reduce the benefits to the top 25 percent of earners;
2. Raise the full retirement age gradually to age 68;
3. Gradually raise the income subject to the payroll tax to $215,000;
4. Raise the payroll tax rate from 6.2 percent to 6.8 percent.
Each of these solutions was endorsed by more than sixty percent of both Republican and Democrat participants with a 4.4% margin of error. There was little difference based upon party loyalty when citizens tried to actually solve the problems!
This study shows that there are answers that are acceptable to the citizenry as a whole, we just need politicians willing to tackle the problem. Whether these solutions are best is up to debate. Certainly the concerted attacks on the Social Security Disability Insurance program are NOT providing solutions – just histrionic publicity.
You can read the entire report, and actually perform the same policymaking simulation at www.VOP.org.