Not surprisingly, a strong majority of Americans support doing whatever it takes to ensure Social Security’s future. A 2014 survey sponsored by the National Academy of Social Insurance found that 86 percent of those polled believed that “current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees,” 72 percent favored “raising future Social Security benefits in order to provide a more secure retirement for working Americans,” and 83 percent agreed that “it is critical to preserve Social Security benefits for future generations, even if it means increasing taxes paid by top earners.”
In sum, Social Security is not in crisis. It is a strong program, and if necessary, a simple reform can ensure its continuing smooth operation for the foreseeable future. In fact, two bills have recently been introduced to do just that. The Social Security Expansion Act and the Social Security 2011 Act both include new taxes on high-income earners, higher minimum benefit levels, and use of a new senior-oriented consumer price index for calculating yearly benefit increases. The Social Security Expansion Act is projected to extend the system’s solvency by 60 years; the Social Security 2011 Act by 75 years.
What does need our attention is the broader workings of our economy. Among the most pressing issues is the disappearance of secure, well-paying jobs. In fact, a growing number of analysts worry that the labor market has become so bad for workers that we may be facing the end of retirement; low pay and the lack of benefits will force people to work until they literally drop. That we have come to this point is the real crisis.
Martin Hart-Landsberg is a professor of economics emeritus at Lewis and Clark College. Street Smart Economics is a periodic series written by professors emeriti in economics for Street Roots.